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COTS kicks off phonathon

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Burlington, Vermont - November 29, 2010

In the past four years the number of homeless families in Vermont has risen by 82%. The Committee on Temporary Shelter's annual phonathon is just part of its plan to keep up with the growing need.

A bell rings at the call center every time someone donates money to the homeless. This is the non-profit's largest fundraiser of the year and attracts very dedicated volunteers.

"COTS just provides such a key service and resource to folks here in the community and throughout Vermont," said Jeremy Brown, who volunteers to make these calls every year.

During the next two weeks COTS, which provides emergency shelter to homeless families and individuals, hopes to raise $200,000 through the phonathon to help with its winter operating expenses.

"There are many more people are in need," said Rita Markley, COTS executive director, "The news of economic recovery hasn't really arrived in Vermont so there are a lot of people still struggling to make ends meet."
As is the non-profit which serves those in need. Its current location on South Winooski Avenue in Burlington has become too small and too expensive.

"In the past 10 years there's been a huge increase in the number of families with children who become homeless. And this building is not an easy site to serve that population," said Markley.

COTS wants to buy the Burlington College building. Markley says the North Avenue location would not be used for housing but would make resources more accessible to the homeless.

"We would have all of our prevention programs, family service programs and our administrative offices move back to the Old North End which is where we started."

But the new location comes with a $1.2 million price tag -- a hefty sum for a non-profit.

"We would finance it," Markley said, "But then we would have the opportunity to co-locate. There are several other non-profits who do similar work and would like to share the space with us and they could help cover the rent."

A deal that Markley says would actually save COTS tens of thousands of dollars annually -- money that she says would be used to help out more folks in need.

"The money we save can go into prevention grants to keep maybe twenty more families in their homes."

Markley stresses this is not a done deal and there are still several contingencies in play. By the end of December she says COTS will know whether its offer has been accepted and exactly how much it will save with the move. Meanwhile Burlington College plans to relocate its operations to the Roman Catholic Diocese building also on North Avenue.

Jennifer Reading - WCAX News

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