The Real Change Portrait Project


David Purnell

"David Purnell" Pastel on Paper by Laura Stokes
After more than a decade selling Real Change, David Purnell is ready for something new. “Meeting people selling the Real Change [has] given me inspiration and ideas, and I’ve finally come up with a few that I’m actually putting into action,” he said. “I’m actually doing the doggone thing!” In a few weeks, David will leave Real Change to open his own landscaping business. After attending several small business administration meetings, to which he was directed by one of his customers, and saving up funds from his paper sales, David is confident about his new venture. “The only thing I see that will stop me is if I don’t wake up in the morning,” he said. David was born in Seattle and graduated from Garfield High School. His family still owns the house that his mother and father bought on 21st and Republican more than 60 years ago. David said his parents were the best a person could have. “They taught us about being color-blind, loving people, not being judgmental, and working for what you get; don’t look for handouts. They were full of love and morals and values.” David stays at his old home sometimes, but he won’t move in. Although he’s been clean for more than a year, he still struggles with cravings for alcohol. By admitting that, he’s determined to overcome it. “I’m not going to kid myself,” he said. “When you fool yourself, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. I have to be honest with me.” ”

David said that opening up his own business and, more importantly, having a chance to be with his family, is a dream come true. He’s nearly bursting with excitement at the prospect of working with his grandchildren, six boys, and having the chance to teach them good work ethic. The name he’s chosen: Grampa’s Landscaping. “I want to keep it a family business,” David said. The business is already showing promise: Through the connections he’s made selling Real Change, David has lined up 10 customers, and several others have volunteered to pass out his flyers and business cards. His services will include trimming bushes, cutting lawns, pressure washing and hauling. “There are so many things that you can incorporate into the landscaping business,” he said. “And I’m good at everything I do. I’m not bragging; I just am.” David said he will miss selling Real Change and seeing his customers, especially those at his longtime selling spot at the Trader Joe’s on 17th and Madison. “Real Change has not only allowed me to meet some of the greatest people in my life, it has allowed me to build some really genuine relationships. If you see faces three or four times a week, you guys hit it off, you have some chemistry. You form a relationship, and they take an interest in you. And when somebody takes an interest in you, that’s what gives you motivation.” It’s this passion for human connection that has made David so beloved by his customers. “My first job is to try to make somebody else’s day better,” he said. “The second job, the paper will sell itself.” His parting words are no less genuine: “Thank you. From the basement of my heart to the balcony of my mind. I love you guys.”

Artist: Laura Stokes
Bio Coming

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