COTS, Vermont’s largest service provider, is hosting their annual phone-a-thon to support emergency shelter services and homelessness prevention programs.

Through December 2, staff members will be making calls with a goal of raising $205,000. It’s the second year in a row the event has been held virtually.

“They’re helping a lot of people out,” said 62-year-old COTS resident Mark Porter. “Including me.”

Porter has lived at COTS for a year. Before becoming a permanent resident, he lived in a tent for nearly 4 years.

“You know, I was getting kicked out here, kicked out over there. I said, you know, I’m getting sick of being kicked around like a dog,” said Porter. “It’s affordable and it feels almost like home. It took me a while to adjust to it because I’m used to the tent and all that.”

COTS plans to call 5,000 past donors and encourage them to lend another helping hand, especially as the state battles a housing crises. 

“The housing market is even tighter. Rents are skyrocketing. So it’s really important this year that we continue to raise the funds to be able to do work that we’re doing,” said Rebekah Mott, COTS Director of Development and Communications.

She says a majority of COTS annual budget comes from community events like the phone-a-thon. This year, donations go even further as New England Federal Credit Union and two anonymous donors will match new or increased donations. 

“The phone-a-thon last year is so critical for cots because it bridges a funding gap that allows us to perform the services that COTS does in regards to the shelters and prevention services. All of that is because of supporters from our community,” said COTS Board Chair and volunteer caller Tom Stretton.

Stretton has served as Chair of the board for the past five years and has volunteered in the phone-a-thon every year since. He says COTS staff members will be calling from their personal phones this year so numbers may not look familiar, but he urges supporters to take the call.

Donations or private information will not be collected over the phone. COTS is directing all community members to visit the website to make a donation. Calls will be between 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

“It opens up peoples’ eyes and what’s going on around the community. Stuff like that, you know? You know, this guy is down on his luck. Bring him up a little bit. I needed that help, I was too stubborn to ask for it though,” said Porter.