Wednesday night brought an odd convergence of the phrase “Power of the Purse” to Ann Arbor. The author of a book by that name, Fara Warner, gave a speech that evening at the University of Michigan, where she’s a visiting professor of journalism. Her topic? The future of journalism.
Despite our deep interest in that issue, we chose to drop by a different “Power of the Purse” – an event hosted by the United Way of Washtenaw County Women’s Initiative, part of a broader campaign to deal with domestic violence, gender discrimination, access to affordable child care and other barriers to women’s economic self-sufficiency.
The initiative was formed in 2006, but this is the first “Power of the Purse” fundraising event they’ve held, and the first time they’ve given a Woman of the Year award. That honor when to Lucy Ann Lance, a well-known radio host and an assistant manager at Ann Arbor’s Community Television Network. She was honored for her work over the years raising thousands of dollars for local nonprofits.
In addition to that award, the following groups received grants from the initiative on Wednesday, totaling $23,000:
- $2,500 to Catholic Social Services for Reflectively Embracing Nonviolence through Education for Women (RENEW), a domestic violence prevention program. The grant will allow at least two women to attend and complete a 52-week support and intervention group.
- $2,800 to Community Action Network for Improving Our Lives, Separate and Together, a women’s group that meets weekly at the Green Baxter Court, a public housing site for low-income families.
- $5,000 for the Interfaith Hospitality Network’s Family Savings Incentive Plan and Wraparound, a program to help extremely low-income women living in the Alpha House Shelter learn how to save money, with a goal of moving into permanent housing.
Four groups received grants to support specific individuals:
- $3,500 for Hope Clinic to pay for the summer course and expenses needed to help a single mother of two children complete graduate school. A former drug user who spent three years in prison, she has since earned an associate degree in human services from Washtenaw Community College, a bachelor’s degree in social work from Eastern Michigan University, and is working on her master’s degree, also in social work.
- $3,700 to Perry Nursery School to help a mother of four remain employed by providing a scholarship for her youngest children to attend Perry.
- $2,000 to SafeHouse Center to help a woman who needs safe housing, transportation, employment and education. She plans to return to school to add to her health care certification.
- $3,500 to SOS Community Service to help a mother of three children who is now in the SOS Transitional Housing Program and attending Washtenaw Community College, preparing to enter a two-year nursing program. The grant will help pay for tuition and books for pre-requisite nursing program courses.
The evening’s “purse” theme related to the way that money was raised at the event for future grants: Nine literal purses – as in handbags – were donated and auctioned off, raising $895. But purses weren’t there just to raise money. In addition, everyone was asked to bring a purse of their own to the event – one that held special significance. Lucy Ann Lance brought her mother’s purse, which still contained two dance cards and their thin pencils, attached by a string.
Ingrid Sheldon, Ann Arbor’s former mayor, didn’t bring a purse but related a story about one. For their fifth wedding anniversary, her husband Cliff went to Wilkinson’s and bought her a purse made of wood – wood being the traditional reward for making it through five years of marriage. They’ve been married significantly longer than that now, but she still has the purse.