COTS Walk memories

Posted On April 27, 2014 By | No Comments on COTS Walk 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. 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!

Laura Dattilio:

Laura is a mom who has participated in the Walk for years with her family. Her daughter, Grace, was a Challenge Walker in 2011.

Laura (far right) with her daughter Grace, and the “COTS Purple Person” at COTS’ Coolest Lunch in December.

I remember entering the Daystation and seeing an elderly women who reminded me of my grandmother. Along with that image came the reality of the headline: “The face of homelessness has changed.” That was the first year I became more aware of the rising elderly homeless population.

Another year, we had barely left Battery Park when we encountered a woman on the sidewalk pushing a shopping cart with her young child in it. When she saw the pack of walkers, the woman said, “Look, honey! They are helping to raise money for the shelter that we used to live in.” She then she turned to the crowd and said, “You guys are doing something really great. I have my own place now because of COTS.” This was the most amazingly humbling spontaneous moment that I can still hear it all these years later, and it was a validation of the work COTS does to teach people to fish, not just feed them the fish.

This woman was a success, and her child will have a better life. The experience was a tangible way to explain to the kids we were walking with that they had together raised enough money to pay someone’s security deposit to help them to get out on their own two feet again.

Along the Walk, we have enjoyed the notecards with facts and the little quizzes. We love knowing about the connection with the Underground Railroad. We love the drummers, and we have loved music along the way – but the Walk is powerful in its own way. I can’t even root for a particular climate because the rain serves as a reminder that homelessness isn’t only on sunny days.

Grace Dattilio:

Grace has been attending the Walk since before she could Walk. Grace was a special recognition Child Challenge Walker in 2011. This past holiday, she and her mom, Laura, also volunteered at The Coolest Lunch for COTS.

Outside one of the COTS shelters, a man handed out jewelry to the walkers he had made from items he had found on the street. He said thank you to every walker as they passed through. He had made something beautiful out of something terrible, and he could see beauty even in his predicament. I still have that necklace.

Michael Lipson

Michael Lipson:

Michael has served multiple terms on the COTS Board through the years with Executive Director Rita Markley. He has once again been called to service on the Board and will be a Challenge Walker at this year’s event.

One of the most memorable memories from the Walk was having my son, Theo, with me … and walking with Rita and Trey Anastasio, leading the walk (or at least close to the front). Theo was about 9 or 10, maybe. Rita got a great picture of this, and a few years later, when Theo was Bar Mitzvah, she had it blown up into poster size, put it in a frame, and gave it to him as a present. Sweet.

Jasmine Mojica Whitney:

I remember going on the COTS Walk about 12 years ago when I was in elementary school. It’s one of my first memories of feeling like I was a part of something larger than myself, and discovering the joy of making a difference – plus I got to see myself on local TV for a few seconds, which was a thrill at that age!

I really encourage parents to give this opportunity to their children – who knows the impact it may have on them. As for me, today I’m part-time shelter staff at the COTS Family Shelters.

Julie Samara Thompson:

Julie is the now grown daughter of the COTS Walk co-founder, Lucy Samara.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my first COTS Walk memories is helping my mom make hundreds of hot pink buttons for the walk. I was in third grade at the time, and simply enthralled with the button machine. I remember feeling like I had an important job when I was stamping out those COTS buttons. Looking back on this memory, I’m struck by my mom’s true gift for multitasking, and for drawing people into an important cause by giving them a job. I think it’s this “You can help” attitude that has made the Walk such a success. When I think of the early days of the COTS Walk, I think of my mom rallying support from friends and community members, and jumping into a myriad of different roles with a smile.

Barb Lande (far left) volunteered in the COTS Walk Registration tent for many years.

Barb Lande:

Barb is a longtime COTS supporter and Challenge Walker.

I am a big believer in preventative services, which is one reason I support COTS and the Walk in particular. Anytime we can keep families in their homes is huge, rather than always being on the defensive and putting Band-Aids on bad situations.

Nan Mason:

 Nan is a longtime COTS supporter and Challenge Walker.

 My participation in and appreciation of COTS and the Walk are completely attributable to Gail Anderson, who was one of the people who started the Walk. I began by donating to her fundraising efforts and doing the Walk every year with her. Because Gail and I volunteered with the COTS Walk registration, we often did the Walk backwards due to our late start!

Nan Mason

When Gail moved away from Vermont, I was the proud inheritor of her supporters – a group of incredibly generous people who have unfailingly answered the annual call for assistance. Each year, I continue to do the Walk in honor of Gail – while also adding to our group of supporters.

COTS is such an easy organization to support because it does such great work and maximizes resources without frills or fuss. Taking the Challenge is very rewarding!

Sue Chayer:

Sue has been a captain of the Gardener’s Supply Co. business Challenge team for many years. Her partner, Abbey Duke, is owner of Sugarsnap, who collaborates in the Cookies for Good project with COTS and Cabot Creamery Co-op. Cookies for Good is like a “bake sale every day” for COTS – 35 cents from each $1 cookie sold by Sugarsnap is donated to COTS, creating a renewable revenue source for the nonprofit.

Sue Chayer
with her girls

I first connected with COTS because of Maree Gaetani, a COTS Board member in the early 2000s. She inspired me to get involved with an organization that she loved. I started with COTS’ former Starlight Auction and then volunteered at the kids’ holiday shopping event – where children in shelter picked out gifts for family members at Christmas.

My first COTS Walk was 2001 or 2002. Abbey and I raised money on our own and then I helped start a team at Gardener’s Supply in 2004. In 2008, I walked on my first child’s due date and then carried her in a backpack the following year. I also walked when I was nine months pregnant with my second child in 2010. Since then, I have pushed both children in a jogger at the Walks.

Our children (ages 3 and 5) are mainly in it for the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after the Walk, but we have also talked about why we are walking. We are lucky enough to have a safe place to sleep every night when some people do not have homes at all. We have seen people on Riverside Avenue with signs asking for help because they are homeless, and the girls always want to give money. So we started a “COTS Can” at our house, and the kids put their own money in when they get their allowance. We also save returnable cans to cash in and give the money to COTS.

Our girls understand that it is our job to help people in our community who are just like us save for loss of a job, medical emergency, illness, etc. that caused them to lose housing. And, when we drive up North Street and the COTS building comes into view, Ellis always yells “Cookies!!” when she sees the Cookies for Good sign in the window. So, our family’s story is connected to COTS through sugar, especially ice cream and cookies!

Nancy Pruitt:

Nancy is a longtime COTS supporter and COTS Walk volunteer.

I have so wonderful many memories of the Walk. I think I have only missed a couple of Walks since 1997 soon after we moved to Vermont. One really sweet memory of the Walk for me is from around 1998. I always brought a group of families – the children were usually toddlers through age 12 – from Trinity Episcopal Church. The Walk started at the Cathedral that year. It was a beautiful day, with probably around 25 participants from Trinity. One of our walkers – Patrick – was turning 9 on the day of the Walk. So, we celebrated his birthday next to the Cathedral with birthday treats after the Walk. I loved the fact he was at the Walk on his birthday as was his entire family.

Kurt Reichelt:

Kurt was the Development Director of COTS for 10 years. He and his family continue to be supporters and regular volunteers at COTS events, like the Phonathon and the Walk.

I remember baking a lot of cookies in the spring. I told the women in my wife’s book group that if they pledged $50 to me for the COTS Walk, I would bake them a dozen cookies of their choice – oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip.  I would go to the store and stock up on flour, sugar, eggs, etc., and the night before book group, I would give that oven a work out. I did this for a few years, and it got to the point that I never had to ask people to pledge because they usually asked me first if I would be baking cookies again. I got this idea from Lucy Samara, who used to bake bread for anyone who pledged over a certain amount. Food is a great motivator!

Leslie Griffiths:

Leslie with the Crossing Guard volunteers

We first came to the Walk because one Sunday at church, Lucy Samara asked us to help be crossing guards. At the time, the kids were much younger, and it was a great way to get them involved and recognize the importance of giving back to the community, as well as recognizing how fortunate we have been.  My husband and I would take adjacent corners and split up the kids – their role those first years was to push the crosswalk button and thank the walkers as they went by. The fact that they got to wear orange vests and get their own name tag was just a bonus!

At some point many years ago, I transitioned from being a crossing guard to being the coordinator for the crossing guards. I love seeing the new folks, as well as the faithful that return year after year to help with the Walk.

My favorite Walk memories?  I love the quiet of the morning as the crew sets up for the Walk, the handmade signs on the sidewalk as we leave Battery park for the start of the Walk, the camaraderie of my crossing guards and the COTS team, the enthusiasm of the walkers, and the people on Church Street who stop to ask what is going on and end up giving a few dollars to support COTS.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my buddy, Marty Martinez, and the crew of veterans who I can always count on to show up and man a few corners.

Now I’m ready for some warmer weather and the Walk! (I always have one reminder magnet on the fridge, and one on my wall at work.) See you soon!

Categories: Donations, Events, Fundraisers, Uncategorized, Volunteers
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