story and photos by Joel Rafkin
It was the best turnout in the six year history of the Power of the Purse held Thursday (Oct. 20) at the Phoenix Expo Center.
Angie Ruth, director of finance and administration for United Way of Fort Smith Area, said 320 tickets were sold from a combination of individual tickets, reserved tables, corporate tables and event sponsor tables.
More than 50 items were available for bid in the silent auction which raised $7,800 in addition to the ticket sales and a la carte donations. Ticket prices were $35 each, $500 for a corporate table or $1,000 for an event sponsor table. New this year was an option to purchase a reserved table for $350 which enabled guests to guarantee their seating arrangement.
Guest speaker Muriel Summers spoke for about an hour accompanied by a multimedia presentation. Summers, principal of A.B. Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C., transformed her school from one of the worst performing schools in the state to the top school with the aide of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits program.
Her school is the first leadership elementary school in the nation and has been featured on national television and in Covey’s books. The program focuses on the person as a whole and not just academics. Students become motivated to succeed through respect, manners, self-empowerment, ethics and social interaction. Covey’s ideas come from the corporate world but can be applied to any setting where there is a group of people and a goal.
Summers passion for education and compassion for people, children in particular, was evident as the audience sat riveted to her every word. She was recognized with a standing ovation at the conclusion. Afterward, she signed copies of Covey’s book "The Leader in Me."
Beard Elementary in Fort Smith is one of about 400 elementary schools worldwide participating in the “Leader in Me” project. (Link here to a May 2011 essay on the Beard Elementary effort.)
Proceeds from the event benefit Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The program sends a book a month to children from birth through age four. About 1,700 children in Sebastian, Crawford, Logan and Franklin counties are enrolled in the program. Studies show that a child with a personal library of at least 25 books performs significantly better in school.