Kutztown family hosts Gala, helps future women in politics | Emerge Pennsylvania

By Laura E. Quain

Guests filled Kutztown Fire Company’s Banquet Hall to dance the night away on Feb. 11 to benefit Democratic women in politics. 

The fundraising event was organized my Kutztown couple Derek and Karise Mace, along with their three daughters, Julia, Evie and Meredith, to fundraise for Emerge Pennsylvania, a national recruitment organization that trains and mentors Democratic women to run for office at the local, state and federal levels. The family had originally booked the hall to host an inaugural ball for Hillary Clinton, had she been sworn into office Jan. 20.

“After Hillary Clinton lost, I realized that for some reason, our country isn’t quite ready for a woman president, I wanted to do this for my daughters, for my mother and for women everywhere,” said Karise.

According to Karise, her daughters were distraught by the loss but still wanted to find something to celebrate. The three Mace daughters had the idea to instead host a fundraising event.

“I’ve been looking forward to this event for forever, ever since we were going to host an inaugural ball for Hillary Clinton,” said Julia. She and her two sisters were large components in the fundraising event.

The event was well-attended, with the entry fee being a suggested donation to Emerge PA, tables set around the banquet hall were scantily filled as many of the guests in attendance chose to dance and enjoy the DJ and those around them, rather than sit.

“You’ve got 6 year olds and you’ve got people in their 60s all dancing together, I think this is great,” said Kutztown resident Andrew Arnold, one of the guests in attendance.

Guests took the occasion as a reason to dress up, many worn tuxes and long gowns to commemorate Democratic women in politics.

Guests ranged from young to old. From the Mace daughters’ friends from school and students from Kutztown University, attending to support their professors, to public figures and Kutztown residents looking to support the cause.

“My wife and I like to do things, if there’s a train of people off to Paris, we want to be on it. If we can get a group of happy faces in a room, having a great time for a great cause, we want to do it. When Hillary didn’t win, we still wanted to do something, so we did it,” said Derek Mace.

Kutztown University student, Trisha Gillott, was invited to the event by the Mace family after participating in a study abroad trip that Derek organized.

“I think it’s really important to advocate for women. There’s not a lot of women in politics. It’s the little things like this event that can really make a difference,” said Gillott.

Also on the guest list was Yvonne Fonte, of Berks County Democratic Women.

One of the many guests in attendance was a surprise to the Mace family, State Representative Mary Jo Daley, who is a co-founder of Emerge PA. Daly heard about the event from Fonte, and was shocked that she knew nothing about the event or the family who was raising money for Emerge PA. 

“I can’t tell you how excited we are just to be able to say thank you for helping us to grow,” said Daley. “We are in an important time, and you are really helping us achieve something great. Thank you so much for supporting us and for having a great time while doing it.”

Daley proudly announced that one of the Emerge PA graduates, Carolyn Comitta, is now serving as a state representative from Chester County after challenging an incumbent Republican for his seat.

“We are so thrilled to have her join us in Harrisburg,” said Daley.

Also in attendance was Kutztown resident Arabel Elliott, who is running for Kutztown Borough Council this year. Elliott proudly thanked all in attendance for their support.

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world,” said Elliott.

The Mace family learned about Emerge PA from friend and colleague, Kutztown resident and Kutztown University professor Erin Kraal. Kraal was involved with the “51% Project,” which advocates that women make up 51 percent of the population; therefore they should make up 51 percent of government.

“I really thought of doing more to get women in office so I did some web searches and found Emerge PA,” said Kraal.

The event served as a social fundraising event, as well as an opportunity to network with those around, as Derek Mace encouraged all in attendance to do. Guests were treated with complimentary refreshments and had access to a cash bar.

Raffles were available for most of the night, giving guests the opportunity to win items such as home-brewed beer or items from Young Ones Records.

Emerge PA was founded in 2015, and began the next year. The first graduating class had 22 women in it. This year’s class has risen to 25. Emerge will assist trainees with everything from public speaking to cultural competency and ethical leadership.

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