Nearly 150,000 books donated to Clark County kids thanks to local fundraiser

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include the new date for the Power of the Purse event, which was moved because of weather.

Five years ago, the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison counties launched the Power of the Purse event supporting the Dolly Parton Imagination Library (DPIL).

And, since the inception of the fundraising event, more than 144,000 age-appropriate books have been distributed to children ages 5 and younger in Clark County alone.

This year, the Power of the Purse returns for continued fun and fundraising from 5:30 to 9 p.m., March 11, at the Clark State College's Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center. The 2021 event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You can’t deny that children need to be enriched by a print-rich home,” says Kerry Pedraza, executive director of the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison counties. “Everybody knows many of these books that are being gifted to the children – they are quality, award winning books. The United Way believes this is such an important program because of early literacy, kindergarten readiness, the brain development. All of those things make our community much healthier and better prepared.”

Pedraza says the DPIL is not just an early literacy program but is also a workforce development program.

“You have to get children ready to learn so they are able to become the next doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electrician, tech gurus,” she says.

When the Power of the Purse was first launched, the goal was to raise $15,000, but the event ended up raising $18,000. Since the first event, Power of the Purse has raised close to $65,000 for the local DPIL program.

Lori Fulk, realtor with Real Estate II, is serving as the 2022 Power of the Purse chairperson. She says new to this year’s event is The Giving Tree, which will allow attendees to adopt a child to sponsor for the DPIL program.

“It will give everyone an opportunity to adopt a child for the literacy program to begin from infancy to the age of 5,” says Fulk. “It is an added premium and opportunity at this year’s event to raise funds.”

Fulk says many Clark County businesses have donated items and services for the silent auction and also sponsored tables.

Pedraza added that books are in bilingual formats and are also available in brail. There is no financial eligibility requirements to enroll in the DPIL program.

“Many kudos to two entities that were behind us from day one. Dr. Blondin, president of Clark State College, was the first individual who ever gave us a donation. She formed a challenge with the women that formed the very first committee. She clearly knows the value of literacy in education,” says Pedraza. “And we are tremendously grateful to the New Carlisle Rotary Club and New Carlisle Public Library. They have taken this on as a signature philanthropy, and they work hard to fund as many books as possible in Western Clark County.”

Pedraza says the partnership with DPIL is unique in that the Foundation secures the partnership with Penguin Books and Random House Publishing and manages the logistics and selection of the books.

She says DPIL has a diverse committee of educators, publishers and authors, but local organizations pay for the cost of the books.

It costs about $25 a year for a child to be enrolled in the DPIL program, which includes 12 books a year sent to the child at their home address. Regardless of how many children there are in a household, each child registered with the program receives a different age-appropriate book.

“The important thing is that each child is getting their own mail and it is specifically for them,” says Pedraza. “When everything shut down, they one thing they could count on is the DPIL book. They never stopped. So, when the library shut down and schools shut down, children were still getting a new book every month to enrich them.”

Pedraza says she would be remiss if she didn’t also acknowledge Ohio’s First Lady, Fran DeWine, as a champion for the DPIL in Ohio.

“She established this as her cause,” says Pedraza. “All 88 counties in Ohio have the DPIL. We are the second in the nation able to publicize that.”

Pedraza says the United Way works with Head Start, Developmental Disabilities of Clark County, Warder Literacy Center, local obstetricians, preschools, foster care, kinship care programs and most recently with correction facilities to identify children eligible for the program.

“It has really been rolled out very thoughtfully,” says Pedraza.

Tickets to attend Power of the Purse are $50 and can be purchased by calling the United Way of Clark, Champaign and Madison counties at 937-324-5551 or online here.

DJ Chill will be providing the entertainment, and there will be both a silent and live auction.

“Reading is vitally important,” says Pedraza. “Currently (Clark County is) at 51 percent of eligible population enrolled in DPIL. Our goal is to have every child enrolled in Clark County."

Children age 5 and under can also be enrolled in the DPIL program here

The Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center is located at 275 S. Limestone Street.
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Read more articles by Darci Jordan.

Lifelong Clark County resident Darci Jordan is a freelance writer and former staff writer/columnist for the Springfield News-Sun. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University with a bachelor of science degree in Agriculture Communications. She currently also serves as a writer for the Clark State Community College marketing department. She enjoys time with her family, horses and Ohio State football. Go Bucks!