POUGHKEEPSIE - Food, fun, friends, and philanthropy are always a winning combination for a successful fundraiser and the Power of the Purse, hosted by the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, at The Roundhouse at Beacon Falls had it all. It was a great night out to support United Way and its commitment to programs and initiatives that create positive opportunities for women and girls. This signature event for the Women’s Leadership Council featured a silent auction of new and pre-owned designer handbags and Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney served as the evening’s special guest and keynote speaker.
Rep. Maloney shared his recently announced plan to "Expand Women’s Economic Opportunities." His agenda focuses on policies that address the real economic needs of women and families, including equal pay for equal work, paid leave, supporting women entrepreneurs and small businesses owners, and expanding access to affordable child care.
"Women in the Hudson Valley are more likely to be the breadwinners, caretakers, innovators, and leaders at home, at work, and in our communities. We all benefit when women are treated equally - it makes our families, communities and economy stronger," said Rep. Maloney. "Our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers have made great strides fighting for women’s equality, but we have a lot of work left to do if my daughters are to have full economic security and equal opportunities. Working together with organizations like the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, we can help eliminate barriers to women’s economic opportunity here in the Hudson Valley and invest in the women and girls who will lead us into the next century."
The event, which was attended by 150 people, the majority of them influential women leaders from businesses and not-for-profits in Orange and Dutchess Counties, draws attention to the ongoing challenges facing women and girls in today’s society. In 2010, 88% of Caucasian women graduated from high school and for minority populations graduation rates fell as low as 64%. Research shows that primary reasons for girls not completing high school include lack of support and encouragement from parents, having a child of their own, and school absenteeism.
United Way believes that the opportunity for changing the future for women begins with an investment in our community’s girls today. "With women heading more than 50% of households living in poverty in the Dutchess-Orange Region, providing programs and services to lift women out of poverty is imperative. The pathway to success for today’s young women begins with a firm foundation that starts with family and community support," said Michele McKeon, co-chair of the 2014 Power of the Purse event with Rachel Diness-Tourtellot. "That support must go hand-in-hand with quality educational opportunities that challenge girls and women to think beyond traditional roles and gain skills to advance toward leadership positions in all sectors. The funds raised by the Women’s Leadership Council will bolster initiatives that create these much-needed positive opportunities for the girls and women in our communities," added McKeon.
The proceeds from Power of the Purse will be used to help fund a competitive grant process through United Way that will work to establish a cohesive partnership with other community organizations to address the needs of children, families, and caregivers in the area of women’s leadership. Grant recipients will be announced in early May. Previous proposals funded by United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council have included Literacy Orange, The Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center, Safe Homes of Orange County, and YWCA Orange County.
This year’s Power of the Purse event included a tribute to Women’s Leadership Council’s Founding 500 members. These 67 women donated $500 each in order to launch the Council in 2006.
"From the beginning, the Women’s Leadership Council’s Founding 500 embraced United Way’s commitment to community, collaboration, and the needs of women and family," said Donald Hammond, President & CEO of United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region. "They also recognized that women in our society make the majority of a family’s buying decisions and by harnessing that ‘power of the purse’ they can give women a hand up and the power to make a difference in their own lives. I applaud this year’s committee on another successful event."