Thursday May 04, 2017
The 28th Annual COTS Walk kicks off Sunday, May 7, with thousands of origami butterflies to celebrate the new beginnings made possible through COTS, the largest provider for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Vermont. Their goal, along with their volunteers, is to work together to end homelessness, inspire hope, and empower transformation.
Chamberlin School has been part of the COTS’ efforts for many years. In the past, the fourth graders have made friendship bracelets for the children staying in the COTS family shelter. Chamberlin teachers have paired the bracelet-making activity with a conversation about the issue of homeless children in the community, and how this is an issue for students at their own school. According to Becky Holt, COTS development director, this past fall, 126 children, and 85 families, were homeless in Chittenden County, including families from South Burlington.
This year, as part of Chamberlin’s outreach, the school, as a whole, decided to contribute to the origami butterfly mission. The carefully folded works of art are intended to represent the many new beginnings that happen at COTS year-round. Holt says, “The butterflies will be featured throughout the Walk – we’ll have butterflies everywhere!”
“This is just one more example of kids’ willingness to help and their understanding that they can make a difference now,” said Sian Leach, COTS community outreach & volunteer specialist.
According to Chamberlin Principal Holly Rouelle, everyone in kindergarten through fifth grade, including those in the School’s Out program, participated in the butterfly project. She notes the school also held a penny drive to support the upcoming Walk. “One of our district citizenship goals is ‘supporting, participating, and/or initiating socially responsible actions to benefit the local and global community.’ We felt that the COTS Butterfly Project was a wonderful way for Chamberlin School to exercise school wide citizenship in our community,” said Rouelle.
The May 7 COTS walk is a 3.5-mile trek around downtown Burlington starting from Battery Park, following the route a person who is homeless or at risk of becoming homeless might travel to receive shelter and services. The organization’s largest single-day fundraiser, it has an event goal of $200,000 and is a critical part of their overall fundraising for the year. About 50 percent of COTS’ annual operating budget comes directly from community support.
This year, walkers will be among the first to see COTS newly renovated facility at 95 North Avenue, which includes the new permanent home for the Daystation program, a daytime drop-in center; family and single adult services; and 14 new affordable apartments for people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. COTS serves about 2,600 people annually.
More than 2,000 walkers of all ages, from schools, social and religious organizations, businesses and neighborhoods, participate in the Walk. About 200 volunteers help make it happen. The family-friendly event includes the Lake Monsters’ Champ, children’s activities, face painting, music by the Dixie Six, and free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for walkers. In addition, a shorter route is available, particularly designed for families with young children.
Check-in begins at 1 p.m. and the walk begins at 2 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome. The Walk itself takes about an hour. There is no minimum fundraising required for participation. COTS Walk t-shirts will be presented to youth walkers who raise $75 or more and adult walkers age 16 plus who raise $150 or more. To register or for more information, visit www.cotsonline.org or call 802-864-7402. Anyone interested in volunteering can email firstname.lastname@example.org.