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Speaker touts 'power of the purse'

Ellen Sherberg knows if you want to lead on community issues, you have to lead with your purse. That's why the St. Louis woman was impressed Tuesday by the turnout at United Way of Cass-Clay's third annual Women's Leadership luncheon. "We call it...

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Ellen Sherberg knows if you want to lead on community issues, you have to lead with your purse.

That's why the St. Louis woman was impressed Tuesday by the turnout at United Way of Cass-Clay's third annual Women's Leadership luncheon.

"We call it the power of the purse" in St. Louis, the United Way leader said.

"More than 300 women came to give their money" to Cass and Clay county causes, Sherberg said. "They have a $400,000 goal. That's a lot."

Sherberg, who started the St. Louis Women's Initiative seven years ago, was keynote speaker for the luncheon at Courtyard by Marriott in Moorhead.

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Also promoted at the event was the United Way's "Dolly Parton's Imagination Library" initiative.

Imagination Library aims to foster a love of reading and prepare children for school by giving free books to youngsters up to age 5.

"If you want to play, you pay," is the philosophy used to encourage women to join the St. Louis United Way Women's Initiative, Sherberg said.

In the first year of the St. Louis group, 800 women raised $1 million. Last year, 2,000 women raised $3.5 million. This year's goal is $4 million, Sherberg said.

The growing economic input -- $15 million over seven years -- has given the St. Louis Women's Initiative the clout to make funding more equitable, she said. It also plugs women into United Way and community leadership.

"We're right there at the middle of the table and they like us a lot," she said.

A strong Cass and Clay county Women's Leadership group will foster business and social opportunities. It will also attract area women to leadership posts, said Sherberg, publisher of the St. Louis Business Journal.

By bolstering the United Way and the organizations it supports, it strengthens the community, she said.

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"My success is only as strong as the weakest link in my community," she said. "Giving is really giving to myself and helping to redefine what success is."

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Imagination Library is now running in 230 cities around the nation, Sara Kearns told luncheon attendees.

The Cass-Clay initiative started in August.

The local United Way picks up the full cost: $27 per child to provide one book a month for a year. The books are provided without regard to family income. The only request is that family members read to their children.

So far, 3,573 children are signed up for the program, Kearns said. The goal is to get at least 80 percent of young children in Cass and Clay counties -- about 8,700 -- enrolled, Kearns said.

For more on the program, call (701) 237-5050, or go to the Web: www.uwcc.net .

The goal of Cass-Clay Women's Leadership is to raise $400,000 this year, said Tami Reller. Last year's group raised $330,000.

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Reller, a corporate vice president for Microsoft Business Solutions in Fargo, is second vice president for this year's United Way drive.

She said area women find volunteering rewarding and want to establish "a growing community" to support each other and United Way.

The overall United Way goal is $3.4 million.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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