Vt. couple's inspired movement to help foster kids - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. couple's inspired movement to help foster kids

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A young Vermont couple is expanding their reach helping foster children when they first come into the system.

Sometimes children are taken from their homes without anything but the clothes on their backs. Julie Kelley first introduced us to Alex and Elizabeth Grimes back in December. 

The couple says their first foster kids came to their home with nothing. It's one of the reasons they decided to start Tatum's Totes.

Tatum is their 5-month-old son who died suddenly from SIDS and inspired them to give back.

They wanted to help the foster children, who they say, helped bring them back to life after losing Tatum.  

A lot has changed since WCAX News first met Alex and Elizabeth Grimes in December.

Reporter Julie Kelley: You've got to look around and sort of go, wow! 

Elizabeth Grimes: I'm excited! 

They moved into a donated warehouse space last month.

"We always do a stuffed animals and a blankets. We're trying to include a lot of toys because that's what the kids are really excited about. Coloring stuff. Socks and underwear are a big thing," said Elizabeth Grimes. 

Each tote includes necessities depending on the child's age from newborn up to teens. A baby's tote includes diapers and wipes. A teen might get body wash and a gift card to buy clothes. Every tote has a handmade blanket. 

It all started with this Facebook post...

"I contacted her like immediately after seeing that story and said, 'How can I help?'" said Renae Desautell, Tatum's Totes volunteer.

Renae now makes Tatum's Totes for foster children in Chittenden County. 

With the help of volunteers like Renae, Tatum's Totes are now going to foster children in eight of the 12 Department for Children and Families districts around the state: Burlington, Barre, St. Johnsbury, Hartford, Springfield, Middlebury, Rutland and Brattleboro.

While the program was designed to customize totes when a child came into custody, Elizabeth says, they've had more luck pre-bagging them.

"They have them and they can just hand them out when they get a call," said Alex Grimes. 

Liz counts on donations from people like Donna Carleton.

"It's truly remarkable. I have no words. I just think it's the most amazing thing for Vermont," said Carleton.

A crew from the Rutland City Fire Department dropped off a check for $500 while we were there. Alex and Elizabeth's uncle is a firefighter and was there for them when they lost Tatum.

"After a tragedy like that, to see where they are now and what they're doing for the community, not just the community, but the whole state of Vermont with Tatum's Totes is just remarkable," said Vic Miglorie, Rutland City firefighter.

Look closely and you'll see Uncle Vic in this crowd gathered recently at the Rutland County Courthouse. He is also the godfather to the little boy in the bow tie who has given this family new life.

"We're here today to finalize the adoption of Jayden Joseph Grimes," said Judge Camden. 

Elizabeth says Jayden was born addicted to opiates and they've been caring for him since before he even left the hospital. Today, he is a rambunctious 2-year-old.

With a room full of people who have seen them through their darkest days, Alex, Elizabeth and their daughter, Emma, officially added to their family. 

"It's hereby ordered that the child is adopted and made the child of Elizabeth and Alexander Grimes and shall hereafter bear the name of Jayden Joseph Grimes," said Judge Camden. 

"They've been there through everything with us. Losing Tatum and then getting Jayden, we're happy to have everyone here," said Elizabeth Grimes. 

"We truly have the best family anybody could ask for and friends. They've really been there through everything. It's kind of full circle almost," said Alex Grimes. 

It's a circle that keeps getting bigger as they reach Vermont's most vulnerable children through Tatum's Totes.

Elizabeth says when they started Tatum's Totes they never expected it to get this big, so they didn't track how many bags have been given out. Her best guess is over 100. They hope to have Tatum's Totes across the state by the end of summer.

Click here for more information on Tatum's Totes.

Related Story:

Helping foster kids transition, one tote at a time

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