By Terri Ferguson Smith / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
Regardless of a family's ability to afford to buy books, every child should have the experience of holding a book and of listening while someone reads to them. A favorite is the inspiring tale of "The Little Engine That Could," a children's book about the power of a little railroad engine with a big heart.
That book is the first in a series of 60 free books available to children ages 0 to 5 who are registered in Imagination Library, a literacy effort founded by country music legend Dolly Parton.
It is perhaps the attitude of "The Little Engine That Could," — 'I think I can I think I can' that is propelling area volunteers to raise money for Imagination Library through Power of the Purse.
Sponsored by Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of East Mississippi, Power of the Purse will be a live and silent auction of “purse” items held Thursday at the Temple Theatre Ballroom in Meridian.
Elisa Mayo brought IL to Clarke County two years ago after learning about the program.
"I had one thought — this is the program for my community. The program included all the things we needed: intervention at an early age, focus on literacy, ease of implementation, and a love for children," Mayo said.
She said she knew that Suzanne Hawley, Quitman superintendent of schools, would support the program.
"Her love for reading and improving our schools would cause her to not hesitate when I asked if she was on board," Mayo said.
Mayo said she also knew that they would be able to find funding for IL. Even though she didn't know much about the work of the United Way of East Mississippi, she felt led to contact the agency and ask for help. She spoke with Thad Quarles, CEO of the United Way of East Mississippi.
"His enthusiasm was contagious as he shared that there was discussion about starting the program in Meridian. From that conversation, the Imagination Library has spread through three counties and has been embraced and funded by The United Way, The Phil Hardin Foundation, Meridian’s Rotary Club, North American Coal Corporation, and numerous businesses and individuals as funding partners," Mayo said. "A 10-member board now operates the Quitman School District Imagination Library, which celebrates a two-year birthday this month."
Those board members, along with the employees of Quitman School District, give of their time and money to make the program successful in the area. Parts of Lauderdale County have been added, as well as Kemper County. The most recent addition was the addition of the Enterprise School District Imagination Library, which expanded the program to cover all of Clarke County beginning this past fall, Mayo said.
The program is open to children who are residents of Clarke County, Kemper County, and a portion of Lauderdale County. Children in the program will receive one free book every month through the age of 5.
Organizers of Power of the Purse hope the event will fund the remaining zip codes of Lauderdale County. Currently, only 39301, 39305, and 39307 have been funded.
The Power of the Purse fundraiser will include many designer purses donated by area shops, but it will also include original artisan pieces created in purse form, including painted canvases, pottery, jewelry, wire sculptures, notecards, totes, as well as gift certificates that will bear a purse tag. Attendees will participate in bidding throughout the event.
The sneak peek will start Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and the event will be held from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m.
The cost for admission is $30, which covers the cost of one year of books for one child. Security will be provided. Women’s Leadership has set a goal of $30,000 to cover the remaining zip codes in Lauderdale County.
Contributions are tax deductible. For more information contact the local United Way office at (601) 693-2732. Tickets are available at the following locations: Andersons North and South; Cater’s Market; Reflections; Southern Accents; The Liberty Shop; The Point; The Temple Theatre; and The United Way Office.