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The Power of the Purse saw increased attendance and participation this year, raising enough funds to support 360 Union County children in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library of Union County.

The event, an annual fundraiser for the Imagination Library, was held April 12 at the Granite Club in El Dorado.

Alexis Alexander, executive director of the United Way of Union County, said, said there’s currently 1,310 children between birth and age 5 receiving one free book a month through the program.

“That is a good number, but the potential number of children who could be in this program is a lot more,” Alexander said. “We just try to continue to reach out and work with partners to get more children involved in the program, but since we started doing this, we’ve graduated out 2,000. That means that 2,000 have come through and turned 5, but got all their books before their journey ended.”

Alexander said there was more involvement in the Power of the Purse this year than in the past. Of the almost 90 purses available at the event, all but nine were sold were sold that night. The remaining ones have been placed up for auction through Facebook. While Alexander said not everything’s been counted, she expects the total to be around $9,000.

“We had great sponsors and great attendance,” Alexander said. “I know everybody says that (it was a successful event), but ours really was. Despite the weather forcing everything inside, which made for kind of close quarters for the evening, it worked out well. We had double the amount of purses donated than we had last year, so that really helped in our fundraising.”

The Imagination Library costs $25 per child each year, but is done at no cost to participating families because of United Way’s involvement.

The Power of the Purse is an annual fundraiser for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The Library provides age appropriate books for children between birth and 5 years-old. For instance, younger participants would receive cardboard books with plenty of pictures, but as they get older, the books would have more words and fewer pictures. The program also has certain themes such as anti-bullying. The books come by mail each month.

Alexander helped bring the Imagination Library to Union County seven years ago. She said the biggest complaint she’s heard about the program is that it stops at age 5. Alexander started the program because there weren’t very many places in Arkansas participating in the program and she said she saw a real need for it in Union County.

While the Power of the Purse is a fundraiser, Alexander said it’s also about raising awareness of the program’s availability.

“It is to raise money so we can continue with the book program, but it’s also to raise awareness,” Alexander said. “We’ve had probably half a dozen people that have contacted us to sign their children or grandchildren up for the program.”

For more information or to sign up or donate to the local program, contact Alexander at the United Way office at 870-862-4903 or

Michael Shine may be reached at 870-862-6611 or Follow him on Twitter and like him on Facebook @MichaelAZShine for updates on Union County school news.

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