Purses with Power
By Kara Pound
South African politician and philanthropist Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” While it is often human instinct to seek knowledge, paying for that knowledge in the form of a college education can be daunting.
Founded in 1968 by Lawrence Lewis, Flagler College originally opened its doors as a small, private liberal arts college for women. In 1971, the school officially became a coeducational institution, but continues to support the needs of its female students through the Women of Vision Fund.
The Executive Board of the Women of Vision Fund is currently comprised of Julie Maguire, Elsa Brader, Robin Cooper, Dr. Beverly Carmichael and Cathy Burkhardt. This year marks the third annual Power of the Purse luncheon, which has proven an enormously successful fundraiser to provide scholarships and educational opportunities for women who attend Flagler College.
“A goal of the Women of Vision Fund via the Power of the Purse® is to teach both donors and scholarship recipients that paying it forward is a way of life and has a positive impact on the College, the community and the nation at large,” explains Burkhardt.
Last year, the Power of the Purse luncheon raised over $76,000 and provided scholarships for three students; Jamie Creamer, Ellen P. Fogel and Chloe Petito — all impressive young ladies who juggle large course loads with volunteering, work and extracurricular activities such as student government, and the International Student Club.
“Young women who attend Flagler College will be empowered to make a difference by both receiving and giving,” says Burkhardt. “Opportunities afforded to the Women of Vision scholarship recipients at Flagler College shape their lives to be the next generation of leaders.”
Each year, the Power of the Purse event sees around 350 attendees. It kicks off with a purse silent auction in the Flagler Room followed by a luncheon in the Grand Dining Hall in Ponce de Leon Hall and concludes with “Women Around the Table,” a program featuring a guest speaker and recipient from the previous year.
This year’s luncheon will be held on Thursday, May 18th and features guest speaker Jenny Levison, a well-known entrepreneur and cookbook author known in Atlanta as “Souper Jenny.” She was selected from a long list of potential speakers by the Power of the Purse Program and Speaker Committee.
“This year, 69 students applied for the four scholarships of $2,500 each, and the Committee selected four recipients with a focus on student achievement and ‘paying it forward,’ explains Kristy Kurowski, Assistant Director of Annual Giving at Flagler College.
Kurowski, who maintains relationships with the scholarship recipients, recently met with student Shannon Schmidt, a beneficiary from the 2015 event.
“She is an extraordinary young woman and recently returned from an all-expense paid trip to the United Nations as a delegate on the Commission on the Status of Women,” says Kurowski. “Shannon will graduate this spring and will be attending Harvard University to study Religion and Public Policy.”
Women helping women. A strong community of St. Augustine females guiding the next generation is the ethos behind the Women of Vision Fund and their annual Power of the Purse® event. Clearly, it’s an initiative that is empowering students seeking knowledge with exciting futures ahead.
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