Walk co-founder shares memories

Posted On March 27, 2014 By | No Comments on Walk co-founder shares memories

The COTS Walk was founded by two amazing volunteers, Lucy Samara and Gail Anderson. The first Walk kicked off in 1990 – and has been a spring tradition in our community for now 25 years.  At COTS Annual Meeting in the fall, an award recognizing tremendous service to the COTS Walk is given in Lucy and Gail’s names.

We are incredibly grateful to the many volunteers, walkers and sponsors who have made this event a huge success, year after year. We asked our supporters to share some of their favorite Walk memories. We hope you will join us May 4, 2014, to make some memories of your own!

Lucy shares her memories from the first Walk …

During the summer of 1989, I got an education in fundraising.  As a COTS volunteer, I had worked with COTS staff member Peg Franzen to create and manage “Cans for COTS,” a regional, summer can and bottle drive for COTS. A nickel and dime at a time, we raised about $7,000 for COTS during the summer months.  On a particularly beautiful sunny, Saturday morning I realized from my post outside of a grocery store in South Burlington that there had to be a better way to raise much needed funds for COTS than asking shoppers to donate $1.45 worth of returnables at a time.

Lucy Samara (left) with Sarah Smith Conroy

Lucy Samara (left) with Sarah Smith Conroy

In late January of 1990, I asked then COTS Executive Director Sr. Lucille Bonvouloir what she thought about letting Gail Anderson and me pull together a group of volunteers to raise money for COTS with a walkathon in the city that would also raise awareness as walkers toured the COTS Waystation and Daystation. She said “yes,” and we were off and running planning the first COTS Walk for Sunday, April 1, 1990, to start from First Congregational Church of Burlington.

Many details were covered and much enthusiasm was generated by our fantastic organizing committee that included among others: Gail Anderson, Marmette Hayes, Kathy Chasan, Pat Cooper, and many others who met regularly to pull the event together.

On the day of the Walk, the Sanctuary at First Congregational Church of Burlington was “standing-room only” as Sarah Smith Conroy led a choir of teens singing “Another Day in Paradise” to kick off the COTS Walk. That year, we raised more than $25,000!

There are many people to thank, with so many generous leaders over the years who have made this event both a big fundraising success and an opportunity for our community to show how much we care that everyone is safely sheltered here. The COTS Walk works because of generous and committed COTS volunteers and staff, board members and so many, many donors – individuals, the faith community, schools and businesses.

Chris Bohjalian is to be thanked for using his generous spirit to raise awareness about COTS, using his Burlington Free Press column to define what characterizes a caring community. Sarah Smith Conroy has effectively mobilized young people to be part of the COTS Walk since the very first days: First hundreds of Champlain College students, and now, for more than 10 years – hundreds of students from Rice Memorial High School.  There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude to her.

I am thankful for the wider faith community and particularly for the members of First Congregational Church of Burlington for the long term, steady stream of walkers, Walk-day volunteers, and donations for the annual COTS Walk.  I am thankful also for the business and education communities for all of the amazing support – and to COTS Staff Rita Markley, Becky Holt, Kurt Reichelt, Peg Franzen, Deb Bouton and Sally Ballin and many others over the years who have supported and so greatly expanded the impact of the COTS Walk.

I especially want to thank Sr. Lucille who said “yes” to a much younger COTS volunteer who wanted to raise essential funding for COTS and who wanted to invite the wider community to show COTS that they cared about their neighbors without housing. In the process, I learned so much about the beauty and generosity of Vermont.

Register today to join us for this year’s COTS Walk.

Categories: COTS Shelters, Donations, Events, Fundraisers, Homeless Prevention, Homelessness, Volunteers
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