FARMINGTON — One-of-a-kind button bracelets to raise money for children in a homeless shelter are making an impact.

Buttons for Babes is led by the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area. The agency has worked with volunteer Chris Bourassa since last summer to expand her dream and enlist more people to make the colorful bracelets.

All proceeds go directly to help children in crisis living in the greater Franklin County area or who are seeking shelter at Rumford Group Homes.

Almost 1,000 bracelets have been created since the project started and nearly $7,000 has been raised, including matching support from Barclay’s of Wilton, United Way Executive Director Lisa Laflin said.

“We need to get the word out that the money is available. Initial funding decisions are being made Jan. 23 and applications will be accepted until Tuesday, Jan. 22. Individuals may apply but organizations also may apply on behalf of a consumer,” Laflin said.

There are no income requirements and the grants are intended to be flexible to meet one-time needs. A one-page application asks to describe the need, and list other community resources contacted.

Requests for reimbursements can be up to $500 and are limited to once a year, if awarded.

The first request received was a tough one. It was from a mother who needed help paying the funeral expenses for her baby who died before being delivered.

“She had no one else to turn to,” Laflin said.

Potential requests might include transportation costs for health care, building materials to ensure the safety of a child, adaptive equipment or emergency basic needs such as a crib or winter clothes not provided through other local resources.

The applications are reviewed by members of the Early Childhood Initiative every three months thereafter, with deadlines of March 30, June 28, Sept. 30 and Dec. 31. Forms are available at the United Way office at 232 Broadway in Farmington or online at

The bracelets have become cool fashion accessories.

Because the bracelets have become so popular, so fast, more volunteers are needed to make bracelets and we need more donations of buttons, especially those with unusual shapes and colors. Pink is in particular demand,” Laflin said.

Bracelets are sold for a contribution of $5, or $10 for special orders with requested colors or keepsakes, such as military uniform buttons.

More than 200 people ages 6 to 103 have been involved in the project. 

Volunteers sew buttons on bands of elastic, donate buttons, sort and clean them, and assemble kits, Tricia Wurpel, project coordinator, said.

As a volunteer, Wurpel offers how-to workshops and helps set up “button bees” at workplaces and schools, and for civic organizations.

One group led by Martina Eastman of Jay meets at Otis Federal Credit Union and is especially lively, Wurpel said. They gather on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Once people learn how to make a bracelet, they can choose to use prepared kits or select their own color theme and work on them at home.

“But people seem to like the social aspect of sewing together. They have a good time,” Wurpel said. “I can see their hearts are into it. They are also receiving something back because they feel they are contributing.”

An easy-to-follow instructional video has also been posted at, and there is an active Facebook page.

Buttons for Babes bracelets come with a product card describing the project. Each one includes a kiln-dried, clay signature button designed and produced by volunteer artisans of Native Tree Pottery in Mercer.

Laflin has tracked the destination of the bracelets, which are now worn in six foreign countries and at least 10 states.

For information, call 778-5048. Wurpel volunteers on Mondays and Thursdays.


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