A mom with purpose!

In 2008, Kelly & John DeMario, 37 of Matthews, began Purses With a Purpose. After moving to the area, Kelly knew she wanted to change something. She was new mother, had no local friends, and her slate was clean. Kelly and her husband John chose Relay for Life (which is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society) as their benefactor and came up with the idea of collecting purses for a local sale and the proceeds going to R.F.L. Keep reading to find out more about their story!

Q. What is Purses With a Purpose?

A. It's an annual sale of gently used purses that extends its profits to foster existing local cancer initiatives in the greater Charlotte area. We gather gently used handbags, tag them, and resale them to our adoring public.

We ask people to take a peek in their closets and see if they have gently used purses that they can donate. We then have strategically located team members who can pick up the purses and take it from there.

How did Purses With a Purpose begin?

A. One night my husband, John, (my built in perpetual problem solver) and I were hashing out what my dream would be. I wanted stores and boutiques all over Charlotte to simply hand over handbags (the girlie fun part) to Purses with a Purpose (my dream non-profit.) It sounded so easy why wouldn’t they toss me a purse or two?

When the donation requests were delicately denied we began throwing baloney at the wallthrowing baloney at the wall is John’s analogy for brainstormingan idea eventually has to stick. So, there we were throwing all kinds of baloney at the wall until something stuck! John finally found the best slice of baloney - it was to simply start with the people that we knew, asking them to go through their closets and purge any gently used purses that they were finished carrying.

Q. What was your first sale like?

A. Sale #1 wasn’t too skimpy. We collected roughly one hundred purses and sold them off of a clothesline in our front yard. We made $800. The next year we reached out to people on craigslist and had a few friends in the community who collected on our behalf. We used my daughter’s preschool as the sale location due to the amount of donations and raised $4,000. The ball was rolling the third year.

The word was out and people held their own “purseraisers” for us in their churches, neighborhoods, and within their personal circle of friends. Year three was full of those problems that you love to havewhere are we going to put all of these purses? Can we get a space donated for the sale? Will people show up to buy all of this? Each and every problem was generously met and solved by the people of The Queen City. We found ourselves in the ballroom at the Blake Hotel in Uptown with tables over laden with purses of all shapes, sizes and retail value.

Nearly 3,000 purses brought in over $10,000 in just under three hours. We won’t allow ourselves to place limits on what is possible with purses!

Q. How does it all work? Do you collect purses all year?

We never stop collecting, but we do usually take a breather from post-sale until the New Year.

Q. When is the next sale?

A. It is always held the Saturday of Mother's Day Weekend. 2015 will be May 9th at the Ballantyne Hotel.

Q. What types of purses can we find?

A. Coach, Kate Spade, Micheal Kors...these higher end bags are there BUT so many are just great stylish bags on each end of the spectrum.

Q. What type of cancer initiatives does R.F.L. fund?

A. Research, Prosthetics, the 800 hotline 24/7 for information and support, Road to Recovery...

Q. How much have you raised so far?

A. Almost $50,000!

Q. Tell us about your recent John Maxwell Community Leadership Award?

A. It was the first year for this is given to local "normal" people who are reaching outside of comfortable ideas to make a difference in their communities.

Q. How can our readers help now?

A. DONATE. DONATE. DONATE! We need ladies to spread the word about this great avenue to send purses for a second "go round." Like our Facebook page and/or Twitter feed to hear what we're up to and where we are in the process.

Purses with a Purpose is now in collection for its fourth year and can be reached several different ways;:

Facebook: Purses with a Purpose

Twitter: PursesWAP