Honoring 30 years of service — shelter to solutions

Posted On March 29, 2013 By | No Comments on Honoring 30 years of service — shelter to solutions

30th anniversary cots gala. table decorations.Thank you to all our COTS friends (old and new) who helped make our 30th Anniversary Gala so much fun! It was clear from the start that attendees enjoyed seeing familiar faces during the cocktail hour hosted by Presenting Sponsor REMN.  Many were flowing from cluster to cluster sharing memories and their personal connections with COTS.

After cocktails, it was the dinner hour.  And similar to special occasions at home, co-hosts Chris Bohjalian and Stephen Kiernan, like two favorite uncles,  started to wrangle guests towards the tables in the dining room.  The tables were adorned with varied and bright cloths and pot roast was served, infusing those seated with a feeling of home and friends and family.

When was the first time you saw a homeless person?

How did it make you feel?

Stephen Kiernan imitates Rita Markely, COTS Executive Director.

Stephen Kiernan imitates Rita Markley, COTS Executive Director.

Stephen Kiernan asked us to think about these two things when he delivered his keynote address.

Gathered with so many good friends in a warm and homey atmosphere, these two questions really sunk in.  Everyone deserves the dignity of a safe and descent home, but in our community there are many homeless families and individuals.

In fact, last year COTS served 191 homeless families, including 313 children, and 235 single, homeless adults with outreach, support, and in most cases shelter.  Not to mention the 583 households, including 560 children, who averted homelessness entirely or moved more quickly into permanent housing through COTS Housing Resource Center assistance.

Author Melody Beattie might describe the reflection that followed Stephen’s questions thus: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

We really did feel gratitude for our blessings in that moment.  Everyone deserves housing, but many do not have it.  With this reality suddenly more present in our minds, past board member Pat Thorton launched into an extremely successful live auction.  Thanks to our sponsors, donors, guests, and enthusiastic bidders, we reached our fundraising goal for the evening.   All the money raised will support COTS homelessness prevention efforts — and help families and individuals stay in their homes.

After the gala, COTS’ board chair, Michael New, said that reflecting on the struggles of the homeless in our community with fellow supporters and advocates brought the words of St. Francis of Assisi in The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi to mind.  “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

COTS and REMN — together we put people in homes!

Matt Hemphill, representing the event’s Presenting Sponsor, REMN, spoke next about the passion of COTS’ staff for their work in ending homelessness through services and prevention.  He also described why a partnership between COTS and REMN makes so much sense.

Real Estate Mortgage Network has been helping provide people the dream of home ownership for more than 20 years.  Their branches in South Burlington, Colchester, Rutland, and Montpelier are staffed with more than 200 collective years of local Vermont lending experience.  Hemphill expressed how proud and honored REMN was to partner with us as we celebrated our special 3oth Anniversary year of helping people find safety and comfort in a home.

COTS honors outstanding supporters

Cabot Creamery Cooperative accepts the Corporate Hero Award.

Cabot Co-op accepts Corporate Hero Award.

Sister Irene Duchesneau, RHSJ, one of COTS’ founders, was honored with the Leahy Leadership Award.  Senator Patrick Leahy sincerely thanked Sister D in a heartfelt video message that was shared at the event.  Sister D was recovering from an illness and unable to attend, so Fanny Allen Corporation Executive Director, Ellen Kane, accepted the award on her behalf and shared thanks from Sister D.

The Leahy Leadership Award was created in honor of Sen. Leahy to acknowledge advocacy and leadership on behalf of Vermonters who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Sister D has been a tireless advocate the poor and disenfranchised and has been a visionary leader in working to provide health care for those in need, as well an early supporter for COTS’ homelessness prevention initiatives.

Cabot Creamery Cooperative was honored with the Corporate Hero Award (accepted by CEO Ed Townley) for their role in creating Cookies for Good, a local partnership with Sugarsnap that has been a great benefit to COTS — 35% of all cookie sales go to support COTS shelter and prevention programs.

Cookies for Good generates funds for homeless services without staff or external support.  It combines the efforts of a local farm-to-table food provider and a local homelessness prevention program to support families in housing crises. The program is designed as a turnkey program to generate sustainable ongoing unallocated funds for COTS programs.

Join us for COTS Walk on Sunday, May 5

As the May 5, 2013 COTS Walk nears, we call on our supporters again to come together and carry our story out into the community.  We know that there is a real need in Chittenden County — last fall 118 schoolchildren were homeless — but not everyone is aware of the many faces of homelessness. Register for the Walk today and take the opportunity to talk about the issue with your family and your neighbors.  As long as anyone is without a home among us, there is no time to delay!

Special thanks to our sponsors and in-kind donors!

Thank you so much to everyone who made the success of this event possible.  Thanks to Presenting Sponsor REMN and Emerald Sponsors KeyBank, Citizens Bank, and National Life Group. Thanks to in-kind donors, Vermont Trophy & Engraving (provided the beautifully engraved 30th Anniversary COTS mason jar mugs), Farrell Distributing (donated wine for the evening), and the Burlington Hilton. Thanks to Table Sponsors Champlain Investment Partners, Fanny Allen Corporation, Fletcher Allen Health Care, Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of CommerceL.N. Consulting, The Lodge at Otter Creek & The Lodge at Shelburne Bay, and Saint Michael’s College.  Thanks to in-kind donors ContraFlux Studio, Chappell’s Florist, Gardener’s Supply Co., Julia Melloni, Lake Champlain Chocolates, Saint Michael’s College students, Mattison + Jill C. McManus, Nina Mazuzan, and Steve Mease Photography.

Also special thanks to our live auction donors.  Thanks to Eric Warnsted who donated a Hen of the Wood soft opening preview night for four.  Thanks to Tim Halverson who donated a four-course dinner for six with wine pairings in the private dining room at E.B. Strong’s Prime Steakhouse.  Thanks to LPGA golfer Libby Smith who donated a game of nine holes and a personal lesson.  Thanks to Mark Bonfigli, founder of Dealer.com, who donated a lunch to discuss initiating and maintaining culture in the workplace.  Thanks to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals for donating two tickets to their upcoming waterfront concert this summer.

And thanks to best-selling author Chis Bohjalian, who doubled his donation at the event and offered two chances to use your name, and perhaps likeness for a character, in his 2014 novel, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, set in Burlington and the Northeast Kingdom.  Not only that, he offered to send a case of books to each winning bidder and to come to a book group to discuss any book of choice! Thanks for your extreme generosity Chris!

Find more great pictures on the COTS Facebook page!

We finally got a picture with Chris and Stephen together with COTS Executive Director, Rita Markley!

We finally got a picture of Chris and Stephen together with COTS Executive Director, Rita Markley!

Categories: Events, Fundraisers, Staff and Board
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