News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 25, 2012

Power of the Purse a charitable spending spree

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star


The 2012 Power of the Purse certainly had allure to Mary Francis of Terre Haute.

The ninth annual event that raises money for the United Way of the Wabash Valley’s Success By 6 program is where Francis wanted to celebrate her 69th birthday Wednesday.

“I saw this on television. I have heard about it, but have never been,” Francis said during the event’s luncheon at Hulman Center on the Indiana State University campus. “It is luck that we are here, as we got last-minute tickets,” Francis said.

Bobbi Southwood, Francis’ daughter and practice manager for Regional Hospital Healthcare Partners, said she had received an event invitation through the mail, but when she telephoned, tickets were sold out.

Fortunately, Southwood said she was placed on a waiting list and learned Tuesday they could get tickets. “We entered lots of raffles to try to win something. We enjoy this and it will be hard to go back to work,” Southwood said Wednesday.

“It’s neat, it really is,” Francis added.

The event, which attracted nearly 600 women, included 21 restaurants offering food samples. Women also bid on 65 gently used pursues and took part in 12 basket raffles. The biggest attraction was 10 live auctions, which included new purses “stuffed” with items such as hotel room certificates for French Lick Springs Hotel; restaurant certificates such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse; makeovers; a laptop computer; spa, manicure and pedicure certificates; Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacer tickets; and a television.

Yet, the biggest draw is the “mystery basket package,” which this year included certificates for two airline tickets on Southwest Airlines, hotel rooms, cab fare and spending money.

“It is our biggest event. The live auction alone typically will net us about $10,000,” said Marla Flowers, who chaired the Power of the Purse event.

The auction, headed by Dan Tanoos, superintendent of the Vigo County School Corp., included official spotters — all men — who yelled out an amount of a bidder. The spotters, which included Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett, tried to help stir up competition among bidders.

This year, the live auction packages ranged from $400 to $3,000 for the mystery package. “What is fun, a lot of times you don’t know who you are bidding against ... and I have bid against my own good friends and I normally would not do that, I would let them have it,” said Lorrie Trench, owner of Hair Express.

“There is no strategy. It is all fun. I have done a lot of bidding. It is the excitement. You’ve got to go in with the attitude that I will not lose,” Trench added with a smile.

Last year the Power of the Purse raised $52,000, which was the highest amount to date. Flowers had set a goal of raising $60,000 this year. A total amount raised was not available Wednesday.

Claudia Tanoos —  who chairs the United Way of the Wabash Valley campaign this year that intends to raise $1.86 million to serve 33 agencies in six counties — started Power of the Purse. The event was first held in a former bed and breakfast house. It was then moved to a church and then to Hulman Center. This year marked the fifth time at Hulman Center.

Tanoos said she formed a group of women who brainstormed on what women liked to do. “We like to eat, we like to shop and we like to network,” Tanoos said. “That is when the Power of the Purse was started.”

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or