The Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge Empowered Women Through The Power of the Purse Fundraiser Last Friday
Shopping, socializing, sipping some wine, all while making a real difference in the lives of women in the High Country! Approximately 250 women and a few men attended the“Power of the Purse” luncheon, held at the Linville Ridge Country Club this past Friday. This annual affair is the primary fundraising event for The Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge.
Through grants, The Women’s Fund distributes money to non-profit organizations such as the Children’s Hope Alliance, OASIS (Opposing Abuse with Services, Information and Shelter), the Western Youth Network, the Community Care Clinic, Girls on the Run, the Hospitality House, and many other programs to create positive change and economic assistance to women and children in our area.
Executive Director of WFBR Danielle Thuot said, “It is sometimes difficult to believe that in our back yard, women and children are subjected to unsafe living environments, struggle to secure appropriate healthcare, lack access to well-balanced meals or economic stability. In the High Country, 121,000 residents are living in poverty. Together we can make a difference in the lives of these women, creating positive change. At last year’s Power of the Purse event, we raised enough to grant $110,000 towards these efforts.”
About the attendees, Thuot said, “People who come to this event are women interested in empowering women. They’re from all over the High Country, Ashe County, McDowell County, Avery and Watauga.
Susan Duke, a sponsor and a WFBR board member, is involved in the organization because she loves helping women. “Even though this area has a lot of wealth, particularly in the summertime, all year round there are many, many women and children who need help. That’s my passion, and I want to help in any way that I can. We may not be helping in huge ways, like building a house for somebody, but when somebody needs something, we’re helping a little bit at a time and that makes a difference.”
Duke understands about people in need. “My sister is disabled, and I know she struggles with insurance, jobs, basic daily things. So I think, if we can help people that really need it, what better work could we do?”
Debbie Smith, treasurer of WFBR, got involved because of her interest in helping victims of domestic violence. “I moved up here from Florida. When a friend of mine told me about this group, I knew I wanted to be involved.” About the grant recipients, Smith remarked, “All of our providers, who provide all sorts of different services, make a difference with women who are underemployed and make them feel stronger and go on to be able to help themselves.”
The Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture has been a grant recipient for several years. Carol Coulter, Executive Director of the organization, was attending the Power of the Purse luncheon for the first time. “This is fabulous, with all of the women here and all of the auction items! What a beautiful place!” she exclaimed. “We’ve received grant money and over the years have helped 18 farmers expand their business and provide new products for us in the High Country.” One of those eighteen farmers, Holly Whitesides who owns Against the Grain Farm, spoke during lunch about how she used grant money to buy necessary equipment to facilitate a seed saving operation to sustain her farm during the “off season” and provide seeds to other farmers.
Mary Bickers of Atlanta was also attending the Power of the Purse luncheon for the first time. “I had lunch with some friends up here, and they were involved with the Women’s Fund. I’ve heard about it for years, and am sold on it because it is all about helping women. It’s a great organization.” Bickers is passionate about helping and empowering women. “I’m a woman in business, and all of my employees are women.” Bickers was so impressed by the work of the Women’s Fund, in fact, that she generously matched the monetary donations given by attendees at the luncheon on Friday.
Funds were raised at the event by sales from a silent auction, with hundreds of items given by approximately 200 donors, plus monetary donations from attendees, and sponsorships of the event from businesses, individuals, and other organizations. “Diamond” and “Emerald” corporate sponsors included Westglow Resort and Spa, Allen Wealth Management, Mast General Store, and the Kathleen Kennedy Foundation.
Key speaker Raney Rogers, self described as “an artist, a writer, a spiritual life coach and a victim of abuse,” presented a moving speech and encouraged the audience. “We must help our sisters, teaching them to use the tools available, to do great things.”