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TR PHOTOS BY SUSANNA MEYER — Two ladies browse through some of the available handbags that will later be auctioned off at United Way’s Power of the Purse fundraiser on Thursday night.

The annual Power of the Purse fundraising event sold out quickly and drew huge crowds to Elmwood Country Club on Thursday night, and it all benefited the Marshalltown Area United Way.

A range of handbags and designer and everyday items donated by members of the local community or businesses were auctioned off at the event, and everyone in attendance had the opportunity to browse the merchandise before bidding on the desired items.

Heavy appetizers, including Asian BBQ meatballs, vegetables and hummus, cheese and fruit platters, and Boursin-stuffed mushrooms, were available for attendees to snack on throughout the day. evening, and individuals also had the opportunity to purchase wine tickets and choose a bottle of wine to take home.

United Way events and marketing coordinator Shannon Johnson said last year 140 people attended the event and about $19,400 was raised. Due to popular demand, they expanded seating by another 50, allowing 190 people to attend the 2022 restitution. The fundraising goal for Thursday was $21,500, but Johnson was pretty sure they would pass him by the end of the evening.

“I’m so thrilled that this event has kind of taken off and people are just excited to come, and they know they’re supporting United Way. They will also, many of them, walk away with a purse or two,” Johnson said. “It’s just fun to watch it take on a life of its own.”

A line of women browse the handbags available at the Power of the Purse fundraiser silent auction on Thursday night.

United Way Executive Director Kendra Sorensen was thrilled to see how much the event has grown in just one year. Guests who couldn’t make it last year were clamoring to be on the Power of the Purse 2022 roster, so they decided to open up the north porch for seating. With more people present, they also needed more handbags. This year they had 94 matching purses for live and silent auctions.

“None of this would be possible, of course, (if it weren’t for) the individuals, companies, organizations that have all donated. It was wild this year. We hadn’t even printed our tickets yet. We announced it, and then all of a sudden everyone was flooding in with phone calls and emails, texts saying, ‘Hey, I want a ticket,’” Sorensen said. “It’s just such an inspired event that everyone wants to attend.”

All proceeds from the event will go to the United Way campaign to support their 28 agencies and 34 unique programs in 2023, and Johnson believes it’s a more effective way to raise money than some more traditional forms of fundraising.

“It’s more than just writing a check and mailing it. They also get experience with it,” Johnson said.

Throughout the evening, the ladies browsed through handbags and mingled with laughter and conversation in the air. After taking their seats, bidding began and several men acting as handbag models showed off the wares to those present. The 2022 event was the 13th annual event, and it’s only growing.

One of the many men showing off handbags at Thursday night’s Power of the Purse live auction displays the first item up for grabs.

“I’m so excited because I’m surrounded by the community,” Sorensen said. “It’s the one thing that absolutely excites me. So when I look around, they’re all awesome, wonderful community members that I work with in one way or another. I think it’s just great to see everyone here showing up to support him year after year.


Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or

[email protected]

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