By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
The power of women was evident Thursday evening as women from across Cooke County met at the Gainesville Civic Center for the second annual United Way’s “Power of the Purse” dinner, program and fund raiser.
“Power of the Purse” is a uniting forum for women of all ages who want to significantly improve the quality of life in Cooke County through giving, leadership, volunteering and as advocates for change and support for others.
The theme of this year’s event was “Destinations” and all the tables were colorfully decorated to represent themes of travel and exotic locations.
Introduced by event chair person Carolyn Powell, champion professional balloon pilot and world traveler Cheri White was the guest speaker for the event. She spoke on the unlimited power of women in communities as well as around the world.
White, an avid balloonist since the age of 13, has over 1,950 hours of balloon flying under her belt. For the past several years, she has been the pilot and manager for Touchstone Energy Cooperative’s balloon program. Residing in Lakeway, she leads a team that has been recognized as one of the most successful commercial balloon programs in the United States. In addition to her busy professional life, Powell is the mother of twin sons.
In 1993, she was the U.S. national hot air balloon champion rookie of the year and in 1995 won the women’s North American championship.
She will be featured at “ The Sky’s The Limit Balloon Spectacular” sponsored this weekend by the North Texas Medical Center Foundation.
“I love empowering women to follow their dreams and that the only limitations are those we impose upon ourselves,” she said.
White admitted that although she is afraid of heights, ballooning allows her to experience a visually stunning world. Some of her trips and races may have her up in the air for three days straight.
“It gets cool up there, especially at night,” she said. “I bundle up with ski hat, gloves, handwarmers, and sleeping bag. It’s like camping in the sky. And yes we do have portable toilets.”
Most recently White’s team participated in a race from France to Spain. She hopes to see more women embrace ballooning as the male dominated field currently has only 10 percent women actively flying.
Cooke County United Way executive director Angie Hare noted that women truly have the power to meet challenges and get things done as evident in many of the events held each year.
“If it were not for the power of women and our hearts for giving and nurturing, it might be a far different community we live in,” she said.
Hare also introduced a new concept to the United Way portfolio called the Community Impact Plan (CIP). Under this plan, the local United Way can address specific needs uniquely as determined by members of the community. Attendance proceeds from the event will be used for CIP focused areas. Health issues were to be addressed with the attendance proceeds form this power of the purse event.
Each person attending the event was asked to choose five items from a list of needs the community should address.
Hare said that the choices will be compiled and that they would be able to tailor an assistance plan to address those specific needs under the CIP in the order of importance. This plan is in addition to the United Way’s assistance to the regular stable of non-profits they currently support.
Hare said that the wait staff and program participants included members of the Cooke County United Way Youth Council (CCUWYC). Funds raised during the evenings prize drawings went to support the group’s reading program entitled “Reading Rocket.” This program supports the CCUWYC program to fight illiteracy by supplying children’s books to children in the community. The group believes that the power of owning a book can be an incentive for children to want to learn to read at an early age preventing years of difficulty in school and life.
CCUWYC officer Caroline Gressett of Muenster said, “We are shocked by the numbers of Americans that grow up without the ability to read and write. This is one way we can fight this battle in our own community.”
The final total for proceeds for the event were still being compiled.
Angie Hare and the Cooke County United Way expressed her appreciation for to community for its support and for the items that were donated for the evening’s fundraiser.