Designer purses of several shapes, sizes and colors were the main attraction Thursday evening in downtown Johnstown as more than 100 authentic purses were raffled off during the third annual Power of the Purse event at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Convention Center.
Nearly 600 women filled the downtown venue for the event which raises funding in support of the United Way of the Laurel Highlands’ Early Childhood Development and Parental Engagement initiatives.
Those who attended the annual gathering had an opportunity to vie for over $15,000 in prizes, which included high-end designer purses, handbags, totes and jewelry.
“All of our purses that we are giving away tonight retail for over $35,000 and were donated by individuals and businesses from within the community,” said Paula Gojmerac, United Way of the Laurel Highlands’ Community Impact Manager.
With the number of donations given this year coupled with a strong Thursday evening turnout, Gojmerac said she has high hopes for surpassing last year’s fundraising total of $25,000.
“We have 555 women present tonight, and we sold 575 tickets,” Gojmerac said. “We actually had to cut it off. 550 people in attendance is the max that we are going to see here for this event, because we want this event to still be fun and comfortable for everybody.”
According to Gojmerac, tickets for the Women United event, which is the United Way of the Laurel Highlands’ largest annual fundraiser, went on sale in February and sold out in just one week.
The Women United of the United Way of the Laurel Highlands is a women’s affinity group, dedicated to raising the awareness of, and also supporting the initiative areas of Early Childhood Development and Parental Engagement at the United Way.
Women United steering committee member Amy Arcurio said the event not only serves as a platform to raise necessary funds, but it also helps to educate the community about specific United Way programs designed to create social change.
Arcurio said, “What this does is it gives us an opportunity to share our initiatives at the United Way, which are really focusing on pre-birth to pre-school age children to make sure that kids get a great start and that parents have all the support they need to send their children off to school so they can be the most successful students they can be.”
While the total amount raised during the evening had yet to be tallied, United Way Community Relationship Manager Lladel Lichty was confident in saying this year’s event marked another year of growth, which will make an impact on many levels throughout the nonprofit’s footprint in Cambria and Somerset counties.
“The money raised from this event will go into our community impact process,” Lichty said.
“Our volunteers will make the decisions on which partner agencies will receive this money for early childhood development and parental engagement.”
“This is incredible,” said Gojmerac as she watched the banquet facility continue to fill with women prior to the start of the event.
“The women empowerment that want to help raise up other women and families for success – all walks of life – no matter whether you’re having challenges or not,” she said. “Everybody needs to be empowered, and that’s exactly what this event is for.”