7th annual Power of the Purse event held in Meridian

MERIDIAN, Miss. It was a night for the children as the United Way of East Mississippi’s Women’s Leadership Council held their annual "Power of the Purse" event at the MSU Riley Center.

The event raises money for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a book gifting program that provides children with free books from birth until they begin school. The goal is for every child to have books of their own and to encourage parents to read to their children.

Around 350 people were in attendance for this year’s event that included a buffet dinner, silent auction and live auction. Money is raised through both the silent and live auction in which attendees can bid on items such as designer bags, gift baskets, gift cards and much more.

Power of the Purse has raised $140,000 over the past seven years. Women’s Leadership Council Executive Chair Kristi Hodges shared the importance of this event on providing free books for children across Mississippi.

“This event is a huge part of being able to supply those books. Without this event we wouldn't be able to supply books to that many children, Hodges said. “It's very important for our area and our community in Mississippi.”

Mississippi's First Lady Deborah Bryant was in attendance for the event’s seventh year and said the opportunity to supply children with free books is a "huge deal".

“This is for such a great cause. The United Way and Women in Leadership have brought people together for a great cause in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Bryant said. “My daughter actually signed her son up for Imagination Library when he was born and from birth on he was getting books monthly. The opportunity for children to receive free books is so important.”

Items up for auction included a Gucci duffel bag, Coca Cola gift set and three piece art set. Attendees could also purchase a raffle ticket for $20 for the chance to win a $2,000 Louis Vuitton bag.

Since Power of the Purse began in 2013, the event has moved venues twice due to increasing attendance.

"It's been a huge success and it just keeps growing every year, Hodges said. "Every year it's like 'wow!' we just keep outgrowing the space."