FARMINGTON — In just two years, Buttons for Babes has created an estimated 3,000 bracelets and raised $25,000 to help local children.

Chris Bourassa started making the one-of-a-kind bracelets with recycled buttons. Sales of the bracelets helped support homeless children living in a Rumford group home.

The bracelets were a hit.

She needed help to fill the requests and combined with the United Way of the Tri-Valley Area in June 2012. The project increased as volunteers became involved to make bracelets, to save and separate buttons and to create kits, each containing 30 buttons, elastic and thread.

Recently, an Advisory Board formed to oversee the project’s growth and make funding decisions, said Trish Wurpel, project coordinator at the United Way.

Applications are received from parents, teachers and neighbors. One of the first checks written went to a woman whose baby died at birth around Christmas that first year, she said. She had no money to bury the baby.

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A teacher applied for a child who was bullied at school. The teacher thought it would be in the best interest of the child to attend a summer camp to help build his self-esteem, Wurpel said.

“It’s things that a child needs,” she said. “Something they can’t get and insurance won’t pay for.”

Past contributions have included the purchase of cribs, food, riding lessons for disabled youngsters and the necessary equipment to allow children with special needs to get the exercise they require, she said.

If other nonprofits can help, we turn to them, she said. The nonprofits in Farmington are well-connected and know what each one can offer.

The Advisory Board now meets monthly instead of quarterly to review applications or requests. 

“The needs are so immediate, we needed to form a board and be able to expedite the response to the needs of people requesting,” she said. “They need it now — not three months from now.” 

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Applications for funding — up to $500 once per year — support the unmet needs of children ages 0-18 in Franklin County, Livermore, Livermore Falls and Starks.

Applications are available on the United Way website at www.uwtva.org/give or by calling 778-5048. 

Along with helping children, 30 percent of funds raised each month through Buttons for Babes get allocated to a local homeless shelter, United Way Director Lisa Laflin said in a release.

The program tries to meet the needs of children, but it blesses everyone involved, Wurpel said. Over 400 people have been trained to make the bracelets, although not all have stayed. She invites others to join and participate in the provided workshops. 

“They are very easy to make and only take about two hours,” she said. “It’s very therapeutic. Everyone is blessed in some way, whether it’s the joy people get from sorting buttons to making the bracelet. Who doesn’t want to help a kid?” 

Button supplies are replenished as needed. Employees at Work First and Torch of Class take buttons off donated clothing. LEAP also became involved, as did students at the University of Maine at Farmington who needed service credits. 

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The Emblem Club became involved when Shannon Smith was president and made it her mission for the year. She was instrumental in getting the International Emblem Club involved. A club in Maryland is making Buttons for Babes to help children there. 

Bourassa continues to make bracelets. While working for Barclays, she is able to work on bracelets between calls, Wurpel said. Barclays matches many of the $5 bracelets sold. 

Bracelets are available at the United Way office on Broadway, Salon West in West Farmington, Wears & Wares Consignment and Tuxedo Rental, United Methodist Economic Ministry in Salem, Shears to You in the East Side Mall in Farmington Falls and seasonally in Phillips.

For more information, contact Wurpel at 778-5048 or at [email protected]

[email protected]


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