More than 300 women came together on Wednesday (Oct. 30) to demonstrate the Power of the Purse in support of United Way's early childhood literacy initiative, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Hosted at the Holiday Inn City Center, the event included lunch, a special guest speaker, and an auction featuring an array of high-end purses and unique theme bags.
For eight years, Power of the Purse has served as the primary fundraiser for United Way of Fort Smith Area's (UWFSA) Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. The program, provides age-appropriate books, at no cost to the parent, to children ages birth to five in the four Arkansas counties UWFSA serves. The 2012 Power of the Purse raised $8,000 for the program.
"Funding for Imagination Library comes largely from this event and private community donations," said Mitzy Little, UWFSA marketing director. "This event is crucial to the success of this program , which helps put books in the hands of kids that need them most."
This year's silent auction included 46 theme bags and purses. Several high-end handbags, including Coach and Brighton, were up for grabs. Theme bags ranged from "Wine Sampler Totes," to "Holiday Baking Bags." A "Duck Dynasty" bag, featuring a camouflage duffel, signed copies of seasons one and two of the show, and an autographed Happy, Happy, Happy book by family patriarch Phil Robertson, were included in the package.
Bidding began at 11:30 a.m. and continued through lunch prior to the event program. Following the auction, television news anchor Ashley Beck took to the stage to welcome the crowd and share facts about the impact of Imagination Library on local children.
"Studies show that children living in poverty have on average, less than ten books in their home," Beck said. "Imagination Library is working to correct this problem by mailing a book to children enrolled once a month, up until his or her fifth birthday."
United Way of Fort Smith Area adopted the program for a portion of Sebastian County in October 2006. Since that time, the program has expanded to include all of Crawford, Franklin, Logan and Sebastian Counties. United Way pays $30 annually for each child enrolled in Imagination Library.
"Every month, the program mails 3,000 books to children in our area." said Beck. "Your support makes that happen.”
Beck then introduced keynote speaker, Kelly Swanson. Known as a comedian, motivational speaker and author of “Who Hijacked My Fairy Tale?,” Swanson, returned this year to entertain the crowd with her hilarious stories and life lessons. She delivered a message about the importance of choosing to "Stand up and stick out" rather than simply trying to fit in with the crowd.
"Find your own way," encouraged Swanson. "It's not about blending in, but about being true to you."
Swanson also expressed her appreciation of the Imagination Library program, telling the crowd to "never underestimate the power of a book."
Tickets for the luncheon were $35. All proceeds from the ticket sales and auction, support enrollment for Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Children living in Crawford, Franklin, Logan and Sebastian counties ages birth to five are eligible to enroll in Imagination Library. Parents can sign their children up online or by calling United Way at 782-1311.
Donations to the program are encouraged and can also be made online or by contacting United Way.