By RICK KAZMER
United Way of the Laurel Highlands
Women United of the Laurel Highlands held its signature event earlier this month at the Pasquerilla Conference Center in Downtown Johnstown.
Power of the Purse set a record for the fundraiser, which raises money for evidence-based programming, including early childhood development and parental engagement. Organizers hoped to raise $35,000, but the goal was surpassed, as $45,000 was raised on Oct. 7.
The funding will help children in Cambria and Somerset Counties to be better prepared socially, emotionally and academically to enter kindergarten, and will support parents in gaining knowledge about healthy child development. Proceeds will also help the United Way reach its $1.15 million fundraising goal during the 2020-21 annual campaign.
The event was months in the making, organized by the nonprofit’s Community Impact Manager Paula Gojmerac, and with support by the Women United Steering Committee.
The event truly lives up to its name, according to Karen Struble Myers, United Way of the Laurel Highlands president and CEO. During the event, featuring designer handbags, the purse becomes a metaphor for strength, she said during her remarks.
“Strength in coming together to lift each other up; strength in making a statement about the community we want; strength to recognize we all have the power to make a difference,” she said.
New to this year’s event was a diaper collection, bringing in nearly 22,000 diapers. The diapers will be used to build a bank serving families in both counties. About one in three families struggle to afford enough diapers to last a month. Later this autumn the nonprofit will be announcing plans for how the diapers will be distributed.
Sue Mann, a Women United member, Power of the Purse Committee member and 1889 Foundation president, said the event’s mission is important to the region.
“Early Childhood Development (birth to age 7) is so important because it sets the foundation for learning, behavior and health. According to the County Health Rankings for Cambria and Somerset counties, there is a higher percentage of children living in poverty compared to the state and national averages and research has shown that children living in poverty are impacted more often by hunger, illness, insecurity and instability,” she said.
“They are also more likely to experience low academic achievement, obesity, behavioral problems and social and emotional development difficulties. It’s critical to put a higher priority and focus on the needs of our early childhood population.”
Mann said the event has grown each year, increasing impact for a vulnerable population.
In four years, Power of the Purse has raised $121,000.
“Whether you were a sponsor, donated a purse, or attended the event, we thank you for your generous support and look forward to seeing you all next year,” she said.
They next Power of the Purse is scheduled for Sept. 8, 2022.