COTS Walk going strong for 25 years - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

COTS Walk going strong for 25 years

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BURLINGTON, Vt. - Hundreds turned out in Burlington Sunday for the 25th annual COTS Walk. And as participants marched through the streets in support of the organization for the homeless, there was another kind of giving back taking place right in the shelters.

At the Firehouse Family Shelter in Burlington, preparations are in order to welcome this year's walkers for the 25th annual COTS Walk.
Chantel Berard has been a guest at the shelter for two months. "We wanted to put the main focal point of the gardening at the front cause that's where people were walking through," she said.

Sunday's COTS Walk is just another chance for her to give back with her love for gardening, to an organization that has helped she and her daughter regain their lives. "It's been great -- not just for a place to stay but for us as people. It's helped us grow, open up, become more social with people," She said.

Matthew Crain and his family are also living at the shelter. He's gone from walking to raise money for those in need, to needing a helping hand. "Sometimes it happens -- you grow and you move on. This place helps you grow; helps you change and become a better person," Crain said.

But Crain and Berard's families are just two of the five staying at the Firehouse who have come together to show their appreciation for those who have walked to raise money, year after year. "Unless you start living here -- getting involved -- you don't realize how big this program is, what it does for people. Once you're here and get to live that experience it makes a big difference," Crain said.

"You know you're making a difference but when you actually meet someone who says, 'please, can I do something to help you?' It's just so amazing," said Becky Holt with COTS.

This year, COTS hopes to raise $175 thousand to go toward housing programs and services for homeless children.  "We had over 74 families with children in our shelters last year. Earlier, before the walk, we had 24 children staying with us in shelters," Holt said.

It's a problem that is growing. But for Crain's son, Adrianne, the Firehouse has provided an environment where he can continue to learn -- and be a kid. "He has no clue that this is any different from a new home. He don't get it, and I'm glad," Crain said.

As Berard prepares for her first walk with COTS, she says she hopes to continue paying it forward. "If you need the help, ask for it.  Come here. We'll welcome you with open arms," she said.

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