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Purple Maple Raises Money for Neighbors

Local fund-raising event features national and international artisans and earns money for Neighbors care packages.

In early 2007, Great Falls resident Carolyn Rumpel created an activities kit designed for children to take with them to the doctor’s office. The only problem was, she did not know exactly how to get the word out about her product.

“I kept trying to think of a distribution model for the bag, and then one day I was coming home drinking coffee, and it hit me — I needed to create a website that helped artisans distribute their products,” said Rumpel, who moved to Great Falls almost two years ago with her family. “I wanted it to be an outlet for creativity.”

Thus, in March 2007, www.purplemaple.com was born. The website offers artisans from around the world the opportunity to sell their wares without having to create a website of their own. Rumpel also has a commitment to giving back to the community in some way, she designed her website with that in mind. At the Purple Maple kick-off party in March, she made sure to donate a portion of the proceeds to a local charity.

As a member of the local e-mail network “Neighbors,” Rumpel got to know the network’s founder and president Great Falls resident Sharon Rainey. Since the Neighbors International Foundation (NIF) is the charitable arm of “Neighbors,” and Rainey uses NIF to contribute to local charities and distribute care packages to U.S. troops serving in the Middle East, Rumpel knew she wanted to get involved in some way. So not surprisingly, when she started organizing a special Purple Maple sales event at Great Falls United Methodist Church this fall, she knew immediately that she wanted a portion of the proceeds to go to the Neighbors International Foundation.

“Sharon does so many amazing things in the community as well as externally, so I thought, what a good way to show support,” said Rumpel. “It seemed like a nice way to try and give back and also introduce Purple Maple to the community.”

The Neighbors International Foundation Purple Maple “Helping Hands in the Community” fund-raiser was held on Saturday, Sept. 22, and both the work and the compelling stories of over 23 artisans from around the world were represented. Among the wares featured at the event were the photographs of local resident Walt Lawrence, as well as the work of artist Daniel Nie, originally from Shanghai, China, and Moniqe Ribot from Lyon, France.

“Sharon, with the help of very dedicated Neighbors Network member volunteers, has sent over 7,000 care packages to our troops,” said Rumpel. “Not 10, not hundreds — but over 7,000 care packages … I was blown away by that number.”

ACCORDING to Rumpel, the fund-raiser turned out to be a “good, intimate event,” and she is looking forward to organizing similar projects in the future. In particular, she is working on holding Purple Maple sales in private home parties.

“I’m working on having private events in people’s homes with 15 to 20 people where you just bring a sample of people’s products,” she said. “It’s kind of like a new twist on Mary Kay or the Tupperware party concept … we’re going to do this a lot more — maybe not on that big of a scale all the time, although we’ll still participate in big community events.”

Rumpel added that for her, one of the best aspects of her business are the stories behind the artisans featured on the Purple Maple website.

“This whole thing coincides with really interesting people,” said Rumpel.

The final amount of money earned for the Neighbors International Foundation is still being determined, but Rumpel estimates that it is at least a few hundred dollars.

“It will definitely be hundreds of dollars that I believe will go right to the postage for care packages and I feel really good about that,” said Rumpel. “I wish it could be more, but I was really thrilled that we could raise hundreds of dollars for that project — I’m inspired.”

For more information about Purple Maple, or to schedule a private home event and help raise money for the charity of your choice, visit www.purplemaple.com or e-mail Carolyn Rumpel at ckrumpel@purplemaple.com. For more information on the Neighbors International Foundation, visit www.nifoundation.org.