Green Mountain United Way and Tatum’s Totes’ are celebrating their third year as partners serving the foster children of Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. Through this partnership, organizations and individuals throughout the community have supported Vermont children entering into foster care by providing essential items that go into Tatum’s Totes backpacks, and gifts to support foster families at the holidays.
This past December, employees at organizations throughout Central and Northern Vermont opened their hearts to foster children by contributing holiday gifts to over 260 children and families in Caledonia, Essex, Orange, Orleans, and Washington Counties. The outpouring of support peaked during the holiday season through the Green Mountain United Way’s Holiday Gift Program. Generous businesses, organizations, and individuals took this opportunity to hold events, coordinate gifts, and wrap items donated by their members or employees. Each child received a stuffed bear, a book, and an age-appropriate gift. Thanks to an idea by a clever VSECU employee, a new twist to support foster families was added this year. Donors sponsored foster families with gifts to help bring the family together. For example, one gift was a family movie-night package with DVDs, popcorn, hot cocoa, and mugs, or a “Get Outside” gift box with socks and snowball makers for the whole family to enjoy together.
“Northfield Savings Bank employees have huge hearts and love to help with this program,” said Erika Facey, Commercial Credit Administrator at Northfield Savings Bank and lead organizer of the bank’s drive for Tatum’s Totes. “It’s very touching to know our little communities have so many children in foster care. We don’t need to know the beginning of a child’s story as long as we can touch their heart in some way.”
Tatum’s Totes, now celebrating its third year in Central and Northeastern Vermont, began as an independent nonprofit organization started in Rutland by parents Liz and Alex Grimes in honor of their son Tatum who died at the age of 5 months old of SIDS. After Tatum’s death, they became foster parents and 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. Tatum’s Totes now serves every county in Vermont through local partnerships like that of Tatum’s Totes and Green Mountain United Way.
In addition to this on-the-ground support, Tatum’s Totes has been the recipient of thousands of dollars in contributions for items like backpacks, blankets, hygiene supplies, and water bottles from community members throughout the year.