News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 24, 2013

Annual Power of the Purse fundraiser

Event raises about $75,000 for United Way’s young child literacy program

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Since it began in 2004, Power of the Purse has raised more than $300,000 for the Success by Six literacy initiative, a United Way of the Wabash Valley program.

Once again — Wednesday’s event — which combines lunch, shopping and networking — was a sellout, with 625 women attending, said Marla Flowers, the event chairwoman.

Last year, it raised $69,000, and this year, it raised about $75,000 — taking it past the $300,000 threshold for total raised over 10 years.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Claudia Tanoos, who started the event 10 years ago and was honored Wednesday. Although she no longer chairs Power of the Purse, it remains “close to my heart,” she said. She now works with other United Way initiatives and the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.

When Power of the Purse began, there were 98 women who met at a bed and breakfast and they raised $1,100. The event kept growing — and moving to larger venues — until it finally went to Hulman Center to accommodate the large gathering.

“Who would have dreamed how much it would grow?” Tanoos told the audience. The support from the community “has been breathtaking.”

Throughout, the goal of serving children through improved literacy skills has remained at the forefront, Tanoos said.

Soon after she spoke, her husband — Danny Tanoos — took the stage as auctioneer for a live auction. “Let’s go make some money,” he told his spotters, dressed in tuxedos; the spotters, including Mayor Duke Bennett, are participants in the Real Men Read literacy program.

The live auction by itself raised $14,525 — the highest amount in Power of the Purse’s history. “That’s incredible,” Flowers said Wednesday afternoon.

The first basket, the Magic of Mickey, brought $700. It included a Dooney & Bourke Disney purse, a Sony HandyCam, a Vigo County School Corp. athletic pass good for two admissions to all regular season high school athletic contests — and other items.

A Pump it up Pink basket raised $800. It included a Michael Kors tote; Clara Fairbanks mammograms for two people; a Holiday Inn weekend stay and Apple Club breakfast buffet; dinner for two at Texas Roadhouse; 10 workouts at Pulse Fitness — and other items.

The Super Powered basket featured a French Lick resort getaway; Brickyard Golf foursome; an Omni Indianapolis overnight stay for two; two tickets to the Colts vs. Titans football game — and more.

The event included 22 restaurants offering food samples, and all food is donated. Other fundraising activities included a basket raffle, a gently used purse event and a Purse Pursuit event.

Among those attending the event was Leanne Anderson, of Anderson Chiropractic, who checked out the Pump it up Pink basket before the auction. She attended to support a good cause “and have a little bit of fun on a Wednesday afternoon,” she said. She enjoys the fellowship, and it’s an opportunity to promote the business.

Also attending was Pamela Malone Gresham, an educator who, as a youth, benefited from United Way programs, including Ryves Hall; the Alternatives for Living and Learning program at Washington High School; and the Catholic Charities food bank.

“I was blessed by the United Way and the people that support and participate in their programs,” Gresham said. “I feel it’s an important way I can give back and show my gratitude for all that was done for me.”

Now, the wife and mother of two children, Gresham is an assistant professor of education at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and also a Reading Recovery teacher at Dixie Bee Elementary.

Also enjoying the festivities was a group that often attends Power of the Pursue —  Carolyn Wilson, her daughter Julie Koch, Ruth Tanner and Edna Helms.

“We enjoy supporting the United Way and it’s a good time for the ladies,” Wilson said. The women enjoy the basket raffle and sampling foods from different restaurants.

They’ve watched the event grow through the years. “It’s a good time,” Wilson said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or