Green Mountain United Way and Tatum’s Totes’ are celebratinig their second year as partners serving the foster children of Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. In the past year, Green Mountain United Way added the St. Johnsbury Department for Children & Families to the regions they serve through their work with Tatum’s Totes.

To date, nearly 200 children entering emergency foster care in the Barre, St. Johnsbury, and Newport Department for Children and Family Districts have received individually created backpacks through Green Mountain United Way’s partnership with Tatum’s Totes.

Tatum’s Totes is an independent nonprofit organization started in Rutland by foster parents Liz and Alex Grimes in honor of their son Tatum who died at the age of 5 months old of SIDS. After becoming foster parents, they found that many children entered the foster care system with little more than a plastic bag and the clothes they were wearing. They started Tatum’s Totes to ensure that each child entering emergency foster care had a backpack of their own filled with comforting items that could stay with them throughout their transition into foster care.

Green Mountain United Way employee Pam Bailey saw the program on Facebook and immediately recognized the value for the Central and Northern Vermont regions that Green Mountain United Way serves and offered to establish a Tatum’s Totes program for both Newport and Barre DCF Districts in February 2016. In June of 2017, Pam was asked to take over coordination of the St. Johnsbury region when its coordinator moved out of the area.

“I was so happy to be able to help even more families receive backpacks through Tatum’s Totes – we have been so fortunate to receive incredible community support for Tatum’s Totes in our regions and helping to serve these children who are going through a challenging transition is actually one of the highlights of my job. The backpacks we put together are a small way we can show these children that they are valued and give them something of their own to hold on to through the transitions that come with being a foster child. We want these kids to know that their community loves and cares about them,” Pam said.

Again this year, the largest outpouring of support for the program happened during the holiday season through the Green Mountain United Way’s holiday “Sponsor a Foster Child” program. Over 230 children who were actively in foster care in the Barre, St. Johnsbury and Newport Districts received holiday gifts of pajamas, books, and toys from a variety of business and individual community supporters.

Generous businesses and organizations took this opportunity to have member or employee events to coordinate gifts, package and wrap items donated by their member or employees. Businesses and Organizations who participated include: Northfield Savings Bank, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, First Congregational Church of Berlin, Key Auto, Louis Garneau, TD Bank’s Barton branch, JC Penney at the Berlin Mall, Connor Contracting, Union Mutual of Vermont, Noyle Johnson Insurance, and a statewide drive in partnership with Edward Jones offices around the state.

In addition to this on the ground support, Tatum’s Totes has been the recipient of thousands of dollars in in-kind contributions from community members throughout the year.

For details about Green Mountain United Way’s partnership with Tatum’s Totes, ways to give, and current needs, go to www.gmunitedway.org.

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