Power of the Purse
A new fundraising event, destined to become one of the most fashionable in town, seeks to empower women when it comes to philanthropy
story: John Sotomayor
The Women of Worth have found a fashionable way to showcase philanthropy’s feminine side. On November 3, the ladies of WoW will hold their inaugural fundraiser gala, called Power of the Purse, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the glamorous Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club. The goal is to raise money to fund programs for women and children in the areas of education, income and health. Who else but the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way could correlate high-end purses with philanthropy as a moneymaker?
Women of Worth was launched in 2004 by enterprising women who felt it was time women empowered themselves when it came to philanthropy. Led by co-chairs Janet Kent and Manal Fakhoury, the original steering committee was comprised of such notable philanthropic leaders as Julie Shealy, Jane Fontaine, Phyllis Ewers, Nancy Vaneven and former United Way president Toni James.
Currently, WoW boasts more than 110 members. Members are women who are already contributors to United Way and also give a minimum of an additional $125 per year, over a 10-year period, to WoW.
In past years, the organization’s premier fundraising event has been Ocala’s Favorite Things, modeled after Oprah’s Favorite Things. The idea was that everyone in the audience would get the same free gifts. For WoW’s audience, that meant 300 versions of the same item from a local merchant and/or donor. Talk about a wow factor! One year in particular, the organization handed out 300 Horse Fever statuettes. The fresh, innovative concept was well received, and was held for three years starting in 2004.
“By the third year, it started to get a little difficult to get 300 items of the same thing,” says Shealy, the event chair and director of School Development and Evaluation at Marion Technical Institute. “It started to get a bit expensive for each donor.” WoW has not had a signature fundraiser since then.
In addition to raising funds, the purpose of Power of the Purse is to raise awareness about the benefits WoW provides to the local community. “We want this to be an initiative to inform other women about our programs that support women’s initiatives, and empower women to be more financially responsible,” says Shealy.
Shealy credits Cathy Truesdale with researching different United Way programs nationwide. She found others with similar concepts, such as It’s in the Bag. Recognizing the endless variety of popular fundraising themes in Ocala, and Marion County—the most popular de jour capitalizing on the dance craze—the ladies of WoW ran with something that had not yet been tried in our area.
Purses of all sizes, colors and brand names will be offered in live and silent auctions, and some of the purses will come accessorized with special “packages,” such as a weekend in Savannah (in a gorgeous Coach bag), a diamond micro-dermabrasion facial and massage, jewelry, gift cards for area merchants, a Gator tote with two tickets and even a dog lover’s bag of treats. In addition, all of the downtown merchants have collaborated to create a “downtown purse” with items from the shops in the downtown area.
Adding another WoW factor, the Power of the Purse will feature two purses for auction that were donated by a local celebrity—perhaps the most recognizable woman on the planet who resides in Marion County. Hint: As far as fashion goes, she knows “What a Girl Wants,” and her purses will leave guests “Waiting to Exhale.”
“Men are invited as well,” says Shealy who adds that the auction items will include satchels and briefcases “or maybe a really cool gym or duffle bag.” There are items for just about everyone and every interest. Other items include diaper bags and picnic bags. The women of WoW have thought of everything.
Tickets will go on sale the first week in October and will be $40 in advance, or $45 on the day of the event and at the door. Ticket prices include entry to the live and silent auctions and hors d’oeurves. A cash bar will be provided.
for information or to purchase tickets:
Power of the Purse
Cathy Truesdale at United Way - 352-732-9696
November 3, 2011 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club