Loosening purse strings to benefit child literacy

Messenger photo by Theresa Hennis
Participants in the Power of the Purse fundraiser to benefit the Dolly Parton Imagination Library gather around a life-size cutout of the program’s namesake for a fun photo op.

(Posted May 15, 2019)

By Theresa Hennis, Staff Writer

You can imagine yourself into new worlds when you turn the pages of a book. For a child who can’t read, successfully navigating the real world, let alone an imaginary one, is impossible.

On May 9, approximately 170 women came together in the Della Selsor Building at Madison County Fairgrounds to support the United Way Power of the Purse women’s-only fundraiser. The event introduced Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program, designed to improve literacy by getting books into the hands of children locally, nationwide and abroad.

(From left) Roberta Byerly, Sue Hackett, Sue Mosier and Lori Thomas, all residents of London, share a laugh at the Power of the Purse fundraiser to benefit the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.

Attendees enjoyed an assortment of finger foods, a drink bar, dessert, a silent auction and a purse auction while Dolly Parton songs played in the background. The opportunity to don fun accessories like hats, feather boas, and masks while standing next to a life-size Dolly Parton cutout for photos, was a hit.

The event raised $12,245 which equates to a year of free books for nearly 490 children. Monthly book deliveries will benefit children ages newborn to 5 years old.

“Children need to be prepared for kindergarten, and being exposed to books and reading is an important part of that preparation,” said Kristen Duncan, a Miami Valley Head Start teacher who took part in the fundraiser.

Guest speaker Lisa Holmes talked about illiteracy and how it impacted her life.

“I was illiterate for 32 years,” said Holmes, who struggles with dyslexia. “You feel ashamed if you can’t read like your peers, and you shut down if the problem is not caught early on.”

Holmes told stories of losing job after job because of her inability to read. She finally came to the end of her rope.

Mayor Patrick Closser mans the drink station at the Power of the Purse fundraiser, serving up an adult version of lemonade called “The Pink Purse.”

“I went to the Adult Literacy League and admitted I needed help, and it set me free,” she said.

Erin Holfinger, a member of the event planning committee who headed up the purse auction said, “My hope is that these kids learn a love for reading. The power of literacy and being able to read and think critically is so important to success later in life. Being part of a program that instills that at the very beginning is huge.”

To sponsor a child to receive books, contact Kara Griffith at kara.griffith@uwccmc.org.

Miami Valley Head Start teachers Kristen Duncan (left) of London and Cheryl Kadobes (right) of Grove City are strong supporters of early intervention to help children learn to read.
Kim Downing of London helps herself to finger foods at the Power of the Purse fundraiser. A lifelong reader herself, she reads often to her 1- and 2-year-old grandchildren.
Erin Holfinger of London holds one of the purses up for auction at Madison County’s first Power of the Purse. Holfinger served on the event planning committee.
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