It has long been said — whether talking about government, business or even individual households — that whoever holds the purse strings holds the power.
The power, of course, comes not from the purse, but what’s in it.
When the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas held its first Power of the Purse Luncheon in 1999, the year after its founding, it was to announce the grants supporting the foundation’s causes, as well as donations from two of its founders, Pat Lile and Olivia Farrell.
The WFA was launched in 1998 by women named to Arkansas Business’ Top 100 Women in Arkansas. The mission is to help ensure economic security for women and girls in the state through philanthropic investment in education and solutions that help women move up the economic ladder.
The WFA is the only statewide foundation dedicated solely to women and girls. It espouses values like empowerment, equity, responsiveness, influence, education, commitment, compassion, boldness, innovation, perseverance, inclusion and ambition.
The Power of the Purse event has evolved into an annual fundraiser that not only announces grants and highlights WFA programs, but also honors women who are nominated and selected for their efforts to improve Arkansas and create an environment where its women can succeed.
Dr. Jerrilyn Jones, one of this year’s three honorees, says the power comes as much from WFA’s example as it does money.
“While the foundation does a number of things that are truly impactful, I believe their work highlighting phenomenal women in Arkansas serves as an inspiration to younger generations of women, which uplifts the state as a whole,” Jones says.
Grants supported by Power of the Purse go toward WFA initiatives like the Tjuana Byrd Internship Program, which matches collegiate women of color with STEAM (shorthand for the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) companies in Arkansas for paid summer internships.
The WFA’s Women's Economic Mobility Hub centers on Women Owned, a model developed in response to COVID-19. It is designed to educate the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which has historically disadvantaged women and people of color, on how to support women-owned businesses, serve as a bridge and create a fund from which women business owners can access capital.
The Save10 College Campus Tour began in March and is a WFA program that (remotely) brought Aptus Financial CEO Sarah Catherine Gutierrez to college campuses in Arkansas to discuss the importance of retirement savings.
This year’s Power of the Purse Luncheon will be held on Sept. 22 at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion. Jones will be recognized as the Arkansas First Lady’s Woman in Public Service. She will join Woman of the Year in Business Tamika Edwards and Woman of the Year in Philanthropy Beverly Morrow.
Woman of the Year in Business
Edwards is special advisor to the CEO on diversity, equity, inclusion and engagement at Central Arkansas Water and is also a licensed Realtor with iReality Arkansas. A Little Rock native, she has worked with the WFA for several years and credits Arkansas Representative and former WFA board member Vivian Flowers for getting her involved.
“I’ve been hooked ever since,” she says. “WFA’s mission, work and strong board and executive leadership keep me involved.”
In the past year Edwards and her Central Arkansas Water colleagues worked with the WFA on the inaugural Tjuana Byrd Internship Program. She credited Central Arkansas Water CEO Tad Bohannon, human resources director Tatiana Herrington and numerous department directors for their efforts in a program that is of special meaning to a technical industry like water.
“We are a STEM industry and we recognize that women, particularly Black and Latinx women, are underrepresented in STEM and our field,” Edwards says. “We are excited about our participation.”
With more than 20 years in political, nonprofit and government fields, Edwards has worked to improve organizational cultures and her community. Whether mentoring colleagues, providing strategic direction, connecting others to opportunities or simply speaking out, she has committed herself to work that can be felt and to adding value whenever she can.
“Additionally, I am an entrepreneur,” Edwards says. “I want to ensure wealth-building opportunities for my family and for others.”
Jokingly, she says she has even asked herself why she is part of this year’s Power of the Purse, but admits the recognition for her work is an honor.
“It means so much to me to be recognized by my peers for something that doesn’t seem like work at all,” she says. “I’m honored to have the recognition and grateful that I have a chance to live out my life’s purpose.”
Edwards earned her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, her master’s in technical writing from UA Little Rock and her juris doctor from the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law.
She is married to former high school classmate Quincy Edwards and has two children.
Dr. Jerrilyn Jones
Arkansas First Lady’s Woman in Public Service
Jones is an emergency medicine physician at UAMS Medical Center who also serves as the medical director for emergency preparedness at the Arkansas Department of Health.
Her public service efforts the past year have been primarily statewide. In her role as medical director for preparedness, Jones was involved in aspects related to the ADH’s response to COVID-19, leading the multidisciplinary team that, along with the National Guard, developed plans for alternative care facilities.
She helped create a number of the guidelines and directives put forth early in the pandemic. Jones was named to the Governor's Medical Advisory Group for Post-Peak COVID-19 Response as well as the Winter Task Force.
While performing her public health duties, she was still working regular shifts in the emergency department at UAMS.
“2020 was a tough year for everyone," Jones says. "Many were forced to take a pause from work, school, extra-curricular activities, etc. Hopefully, folks were able to reflect on those things that matter most in life. Some of us, however, never stopped working. ... I am proud to have been able to consistently serve both my patients and the state of Arkansas through this pandemic.”
Honored by her Power of the Purse recognition, Jones nonetheless notes she wasn’t the only one putting in long hours during the pandemic.
“I was so humbled to be named for this award,” she says. “So many have worked so hard and given so much during this pandemic that it feels really special to be singled out. I believe, though, that great accomplishments are not done in isolation. I applaud all those who have sacrificed their time and talents to help others over this past year.”
Jones was raised in Montgomery, Alabama. She earned her undergraduate degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and then attended Harvard Medical School in Boston. She completed her residency in emergency medicine and her fellowship in EMS while in Boston, where she also completed her master’s in public health.
Married to physician Christopher Jones, she is mother to three daughters.
To say the least, the work of the WFA on behalf of the state’s women and girls is vital, Jones says.
“Aside from being the right thing to do, supporting the WFA is a sure way to have your investment of time or money go far,” she says. “The WFA has made it a priority to support women, and we know that women are essential to society. And investment in women yields phenomenal returns.”
Woman of the Year in Philanthropy
Morrow began her volunteer work during the 10 years she and her husband Curtis owned and operated a single McDonald’s franchise in Pine Bluff, with many more franchises to follow.
As a member of the McDonald’s Women Owner Network, Morrow served as the profit lead for women operators, focusing on increasing the profits of the women operators across the country. She was awarded The Shining Star Award, which recognizes women operators who are leaders in their communities and who participate, sponsor and support organizations emphasizing children’s well being and education.
“Serving helped me to learn and helped me to get better, but I think that I’ve always had it in me,” Morrow says. “God has blessed me and I’m supposed to help other people. Working at McDonald’s, and [with] my employees who became my second family, I guess there was a need for me personally to be involved and to do.”
Morrow spent the past year volunteering her time and donating and raising money in her efforts to help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. She even broke out her sewing machine to make masks, which she donated to Baptist Health and Arkansas Children’s. She also did community work through her Pine Bluff church, St. Mark United Methodist Church.
“I think it’s our responsibility to hand back and to help women other than us and younger than us, to give guidance and mentorship, and that’s where the Women’s Foundation really fits in,” Morrow says.
While her recent work has drawn accolades from the WFA, Morrow’s philanthropy efforts are just one chapter in a book’s worth of accomplishments.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she graduated in the top 5% from Erasmus High School and attended MIT, where she met her future husband. She earned her degree in chemical engineering and worked in the oil industry while beginning to raise a family.
She earned a master’s in chemical engineering at Rutgers and was working at Autodynamics Inc. when Curtis was awarded the Pine Bluff McDonald’s franchise and they moved to the South.
While in Pine Bluff she joined her first board, serving with Volunteers in Court to help the previously incarcerated. Morrow has gone on to serve on and chair numerous local and state boards including that of the WFA, of which she is also one of the founders. She is currently on the advisory boards of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub and The Reynolds Institute on Aging, as well as the boards of Arkansas Children’s and the Arkansas Children’s Foundation.
Morrow says the specific nature of each board broadened her horizons and helped her make connections and understand how different organizations and industries work. She gained insight into a range of areas that includes banking, health care and law.
With four grown children, Morrow “retired” in 2016, but hardly slowed down. In 2021, she became the chair of Arkansas Children’s Board of Directors, becoming the first African American to serve in that role.
Power of the Purse
Wednesday, Sept. 22
Arkansas Governor’s Mansion