Announcing Tatum’s Totes Program for Foster Kids

Green Mountain United Way: Newsletter


Green Mountain
United Way


From the Executive Director

Tawnya Kristen

Dear Friends-

What an amazing month at GMUW! I am so proud to announce that we have officially started the Barre District Tatum’s Totes program and are already seeing a tremendous response within our community. Tatum’s Totes was started by Alex and Elizabeth Grimes after losing their 5 month old son, Tatum James Grimes, to SIDS May 5th 2013. They have found comfort in honoring Tatum’s memory in many ways, including the program Tatum’s Totes. This unique program provides each child entering the DCF foster care system with a backpack, diaper bag or duffle bag filled with special items. Every day children enter foster care with absolutely nothing or very little to call their own. Though a bag will not change the heartbreaking situation they are in, it is meant to offer comfort and make the transition less challenging.

GMUW is working closely with the Barre District DCF office to ensure that bags are created based on age and gender through collected donations and are available for immediate delivery when notified that a child is coming into care. To date, businesses like Northfield Savings Bank, Capitol Stationers and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont have already started donation drives to help us keep the bags full. This, along with individual donations from the public, is helping us keep pace with the average of 10 children per month entering the foster care system in the Barre District alone.

We understand that this program is not a solution to the growing problem of our most vulnerable not being cared for, but what we do hope is to provide a moment of comfort to the children and elevate the human element sometimes lost in the overwhelming issues of poverty, opiate addiction and the cycle of abuse. And though our hearts ache each time another Tatum Tote bag for a child or baby is needed, we are reminded that there is still so much good in this world by your demonstrated support. And there will always be hope if we continue to care and maintain the course to live united.
For more information on how you can be a part of the Tatum’s Totes program, contact Pam Bailey at

Thank you for your support and warmest regards,

GMUW and the Tatum’s Totes Program in Washington Co.

Pam Bailey with totes

Green Mountain United Way is excited to announce that we are now coordinating the Tatum’s Totes Program in Washington Co. for the benefit of children heading into foster care. This is an offshoot of the same program started in Rutland Co. last summer by Elizabeth and Alex Grimes who, two years prior, had lost their son to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). After that devastating loss, they began taking in foster children to try and help fill the void they were experiencing.

Mr. & Mrs. Grimes saw how little each child they took in had for personal possessions when arriving at their home, and how insecure each one appeared. Some came with just the clothes on their backs, some of which was old and stained. Immediately the Grimes’ launched Tatum’s Totes, named after their son; a program to provide each child moving in with a foster family a backpack filled with such items as new clothes, a stuffed animal and blanket for security, some books and small toys, baby items (depending on age) and some personal hygiene items they could call their own. It was an overnight success. “It may sound like basic stuff to you,” said Elizabeth Grimes, “but this bag may be the only thing a teenager entering foster care has except for the clothes on their back.”

GMUW has coordinated this effort with the Grimes’ helping them to move the program into several counties of Vermont. Currently, there are roughly 300,000 children in foster care nationwide with 1,400 of them in Vermont. Almost half of them will wait three years or more before being adopted, meaning those years will be spent being bounced between foster homes.

So far, GMUW has provided 8 bags to children entering custody in Washington Co. The bags and items packed in them have all been donated and contributions, including monetary, will be accepted on an ongoing basis as it is planned that this program is here to stay. We ask that all donations be of new items and some suggestions are: baby blankets, fleece blankets, baby and children’s books, small toys, baby onesies, sippy cups, toothbrushes, toothpaste, coloring books and drawing pads, crayons, markers, stuffed animals, diapers and diaper bags, backpacks, hair brushes, shampoo, body wash, night lights and flashlights, socks, winter hats, mittens, slippers, board games, and water bottles. A full list can be found on our website at

Currently, Capitol Stationers in Montpelier has a bin set up for donation drop-offs. The Northfield Savings Bank and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont will be conducting drives for donations at their offices. The Northfield Senior Center has collected many items including knitted blankets and hats. Norwich University has also contributed to the program, and several individuals, when hearing of the program, have made donations of books, stuffed animals and money. The GMUW biggest need now is for backpacks. Please keep in mind that we are accepting only new items.

For more information, contact Pam at the GMUW Barre office at 802-622-8056 or by email at

Campaign Update

We’re chugging along toward our campaign goal of $550,000 and have now reached over $360,000 with two months left to go.

For those of you who have already sent your contributions or have participated in your worksite’s campaign, we thank you from the bottoms of our hearts.

If you have not yet given, please write your tax deductible check today to Green Mountain United Way and send to: 1 Conti Circle, Unit #3, Barre, VT 05641, or go to and donate online. You have there the option of making a one-time gift or a recurring monthly gift.

If you would like more information about Green Mountain United Way, its local initiatives and why it is good to contribute, please contact our Executive Director, Tawnya Kristen, at 802-622-8056.

EITC Awareness Day

Nelson Baker, Mary Niebling, Grant Peterson, and Mary Peterson

On February 5th, Nelson Baker, GMUW’s Community Impact Director in our St. Johnsbury office, was featured as one of four panelists at the State House in Montpelier for the annual Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Awareness Day. Nelson was representing Green Mountain United Way and the United Ways of Vermont and joined Mary Niebling, Director of Economic Development for Capstone Community Action, Grant Peterson, IRS Stakeholder Relationship Consultant, and Mary Peterson, VT Tax Commissioner.

Together they stressed the importance of filing income taxes (not the short form) and specifically requesting this tax credit as it is designed to reward working families. For instance, a married couple with three or more children, filing jointly, could have earned up to $53,267 in 2015 and be eligible for a credit of $6,242. The full list of income limits and guidelines in this program can be viewed at under the Earned Income Tax Credit section.

Nelson states, “One individual who recently attended a financial literacy workshop had received EITC from the federal government and also from the State of Vermont when she filed her tax returns. She was able to pay several overdue utility bills and had some money left over to put into a savings account.” He also indicated that, unfortunately, 20% of taxpayers who qualify for EITC do not claim the refund.

If you think you qualify for EITC, make sure you complete the proper questions when doing your taxes.

Tips of the Month

The United Way’s three major areas of work are Education, Income and Health. With this in mind, in our e-newsletters we would like to give you some basic tips on how to help your children become better prepared when entering preschool and Kindergarten, how to help your family become more financially stable and how to help you live healthier lives.

Education: Remember that children begin learning from the time they are born. Reading to them from the very beginning on a daily basis will make a big difference in their learning skills and in the development of their love of reading. Make a point of setting aside some time every day to read to your kids.

Income: In last month’s issue of this newsletter, we provided five ideas on how to save some money. Here’s #6: Make out a budget, either each time you get your paycheck, monthly or quarterly and STICK TO IT. Yes, there will be times when an expense comes up that you cannot avoid, but take care of that expense and then immediately re-adjust how you spend the balance of your available money.

Health: Take a brisk walk every day. It’s as simple as that. It may be difficult at first to take 15 or 20 minutes out of your busy schedule, but after you get into the habit, you will love it. Getting the exercise and taking in the fresh air will rejuvenate you and give you added energy. You might even lose a little weight – a good thing for your heart.

Community Forums & Events

March 2016 National Nutrition Month and National March for Meals Month
March 4, 2016: Community Learning Circle: Navigating Trauma in Your Role as a Leader to be held at the Old Labor Hall in Barre and is an all-day conference by invitation. For information, contact Tawnya at GMUW at 802-622-8056.
March 8, 2016 Public Opiate Addiction Forum at Montpelier High School Auditorium starting at 6:30 pm and being facilitated by GMUW. Discussions will include a strategic crime prevention plan focusing on implementing treatment vs. arrest. For information, contact Tawnya at GMUW at 802-622-8056.
March 12, 2016 9th Annual Dabble Day presented by Caledonia/So. Essex Building Bright Futures Council from 9:30 am to noon at the St. Johnsbury Elementary School.
April 2, 2016 Annual Dabble Day events presented by Orleans/No. Essex Building Bright Futures at the Coventry School, Coventry, VT from 9 am to noon. It’s a day for children to play and learn while their parents discover community resources.
April 6, 2016 7th Annual Central VT Job Fair from 10 am to 4 pm at the Barre City Auditorium. Sponsored by Central VT Economic Development Corp., VocRehab, VABIR, Workforce Development Board of Central VT., VT Dept. of Labor and GMUW.
April 10 – 16, 2016 National Volunteer Week. It’s all about inspiring and recognizing those who engage in their communities to make them better places to live, work and play. Give them a handshake and a thank you, while you’re at it, how about doing a little volunteering yourself?
April 21, 2016 St. Johnsbury Job Fair from 10 am to 2 pm at the St. Johnsbury Elementary School sponsored by Creative Workforce Solutions, VocRehab, VABIR and the VT Dept. of Labor. GMUW will have a display.


Green Mountain United Way · 1 Conti Circle, Unit 3 · Barre, VT 05641-9604 · USA

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