Fundraiser seeks to ensure all preschoolers have a ride to school

School attendance is a key element in the education of any child, but especially the youngest students.

That’s why ensuring transportation to and from preschool programs is the focus of a Power of the Purse fundraiser being organized by the Litchfield Empower Women United.

Sponsored by United Way of West Central Minnesota, Power of the Purse began in 2006 with the goal to raise funds to help preschool-aged kids receive education without any barrier.

“That’s important,” said Donna Anderson, the director of Central Community Transit, talking about the importance of preschool education. “You don’t go to preschool, you’re behind if you go to kindergarten, and the teachers notice it. So this (Power of the Purse) is a big part of that.”

Power of the Purse emerged due to lack of transportation funds for preschoolers, according to Rebecca Warpula, Community Education director for Litchfield Public Schools. So the district’s Early Childhood Family Education program, Mighty Dragons Preschool, School of St. Philip, Meeker County Public Health and CCT partnered to ensure all preschoolers have access to transportation.

“We have at-home providers and parents who need to get their children to preschool,” Warpula said. “They either have one car or they have some medical issues. Or they just like the convenience. But for children who can’t afford it … it has to be income-based, and they have to have a reason why (they) can’t … so we have worked to try and fill in the gap.”

Power of the Purse annually raises $20,000 to help fund transportation costs, including a person who monitors the safety of children in the CCT buses. In previous years, Power of the Purse has hosted home tours, silent and live purse auctions, food and more. This year’s event involves bingo.

“Money is the power behind the purse,” Warpula said, describing the meaning behind the name of Power of the Purse. “And this money is the power to send children to school. It gives them access to learning. All of our funding stays in Litchfield and benefits young children and families. … The unique thing about our collaboration is that it’s for kids who go to all the programs. We call it equal access to preschool to all kids.”

The fundraiser begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, at the Eagles Club. The event is open to people 18 and older, with tickets starting at $35 for 20 games. Warpula anticipates 300 people showing up to the event. Tickets can be purchased at Mighty Dragons Preschool or Litchfield Community Education, with proceeds going toward transportation scholarships.

“There’s lots of research that’s been done … that proves that if a child has preschool, and they have that structured time, and they have a good educational program (they are) more likely to (do) better K-12,” Warpula said. “And that’s why we as professionals feel so strongly about helping families get their children to preschool, because we know that it has lifelong implications that they will graduate at a higher rate, they’ll do better in school, and then they’ll be able to be more productive as adults, and go to college, make more money, add to society, take care of families and stuff.”