Power of the Purse Event Breaks Record, Empowers Women

Published on March 26, 2024 in

Dana Williams already owns two handbags from Glam-Aholic but when she laid eyes on the brand’s platinum metallic bag during United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s 16th Annual Power of the Purse event, she couldn’t resist bidding on a third to add to her collection.

Her purchase was one of the dozens that helped Power of the Purse raise a record-breaking $81,500 to support the financial stability of women and children in Washtenaw County.

“This is the first purse that I’ve purchased that goes towards something greater than me,” said Dana, who is the president and CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation. “There are so many great items from a lot of brands. I appreciate that this is a local brand and it’s owned by a Black woman.”

This is the first purse that I’ve purchased that goes towards something greater than me, I appreciate that this is a local brand and it’s owned by a Black woman.”

– Dana Williams

More than 300 women and supporters attended the event, which was held at Washtenaw Community College’s Morris Lawrence Conference Building. With 102 luxury purses and handbags, and numerous raffles, Power of the Purse, presented by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, offered something for everyone.

Patricia Garcia was thrilled to take home a petite Louis Vuitton bag – one of two featured Spotlight Purses.

“I normally wouldn’t spend this much on a bag, but this is a great cause,” said Patricia who is the publisher of the Ann Arbor Observer. Patricia is a longtime supporter of United Way – even serving on the board in the late 80s and early 90s. Although she was traveling and only home for two days, she did not want to miss Power of the Purse and scooped up one of the last few available tickets.

Unprecedented Growth

Looking around the room as groups of women gathered near the tables lined with colorful bags, Kim Liberati could hardly believe her eyes. She has served on the Power of the Purse committee for 15 years and has seen the event grow exponentially over that period.

“I remember our first event was just 20 purses and 45 people,” said Kim, who shared her excitement about United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s merger with United Way of Washtenaw County and what it would mean for the future of Power of the Purse.

“I’m excited about just having it grow,” Kim said. “It’s going to be huge. We see a lot of the same people every year and they just look forward to this event every year, but it’s a whole new audience now, so we’re buckling up for that.”

This year’s event sold out in record time – adding to the more than $545,000 the event has raised since its inception in 2008.

Celebrating the Power of Women

“When women work together, anything is possible,” said United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s president and CEO Dr. Darienne Hudson. “I have witnessed the philanthropic spirit that permeates this community – people willing to invest time and money into helping others and neighbors eager to lend their voices on behalf of others.”

Washtenaw’s 2024 Woman of the Year and Michigan Medicine Director of Community Health Services Alfreda Rooks was honored during the event for her commitment to community, accomplishments in business innovation, and her impact across Washtenaw County.

Surrounded by friends, family members, and her Michigan Medicine team, Alfreda accepted the award and read one of her favorite poems, which speaks to her positive outlook and commitment to cultivating joy and impact.

“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

Power of the Purse, like the Women of Influence Summit, is presented by Women United, a dynamic group of leaders who support early childhood education and literacy work throughout Southeastern Michigan. Both events took place during Women’s History Month and raised a combined $412,500.

Meeting Community Need

“I love the fact that we’re giving all these dollars back to women in our community and we give it back in so many different ways. I mean, childcare, beds, education – you name it,” said Mitzi Talon. “You also see all of these different ways we’re then able to help other nonprofits as well. It’s a lot of fun to help women in so many different ways.”

Last year’s five Power of the Purse grant recipients were featured on posters throughout the room showcasing the impact of the funding. In the coming months, a new slate of grantees will be chosen by the committee.

Phyllis Blackman, a first-time Power of the Purse attendee came out to support friend and former co-worker Alfreda but found joy in knowing her purchase would help others.

“I live in Wayne County but most of my working life has been in Washtenaw County, so I’m very familiar with this community,” said Phyllis as she excitedly bid on a Carhartt tote. “Giving back to the community is what you have to do when you know what people need. I give because there are so many needs.”

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