The phone calls can come at any time, day or night. It’s the call from the Department of Children and Family Services telling us another child is being placed in emergency foster care and a Tatum’s Totes bag is needed. These are the calls the Green Mountain United Way staff has come to expect since starting the Barre District Tatum’s Totes program. But what continues to surprise us is the support this program is receiving when people learn of how it began and the purpose it meets.
Tatum’s Totes was created by Alex and Elizabeth Grimes after they lost their 5-month-old son, Tatum James Grimes, to SIDS. Searching for a way to help ease the pain of such an unimaginable loss and to honor the memory of their son, they became foster parents hoping to provide a sense of home to those most vulnerable. After seeing children come through their door with little or nothing of their own, they decided to start a program that ensured every child entering foster care would have a personal bag filled with special items to call their own. Alex and Elizabeth’s unique understanding of how essential the smallest amount of comfort can be in the most challenging of times became the foundation of a program that is now growing statewide.
GMUW is honored to be leading the Barre District DCF Tatum’s Totes program, providing each child entering foster care with a backpack, diaper bag or duffle bag filled with special items specific to gender and age. We know that this program is not the single solution to the many factors that create this situation of need. But what we do know is that it is a key component to the larger GMUW initiatives that work to find solutions to the issues of poverty, addiction and the cycle of abuse. And this simple program, which started from a time of heartbreak, is now offering light to the human element sometimes lost in the larger issues.
We appreciate and depend on your continued support of programs like Tatum’s Totes and others offered through the Green Mountain United Way. Through your generosity, we are reminded of how valued our work is and that the ability to bring effective change to areas in need is reliant on our ability as a community to give, work and live united. For more information, please visit www.gmunitedway.org/blog/green-mountain-united-way-leads-tatums-totes-effort/.
Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director
Green Mountain United Way