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Vermont Family Sells 251 Club Map to Support Foodbank

I had always planned on taking a gap year between college graduation and graduate school, but halfway through my gap year, COVID-19 struck the U.S. I was attending graduate school open houses when the U.S. shut down and I returned home to quarantine with my family in Vermont. After being away from home for both high school and college, I cherished the time I had there—even my younger brother returned home to complete his term virtually. We played board games, read books, went on walks and spent lots of time together. A couple of months into quarantine, my mom and I, who are always looking for something to do, decided we should join the Vermont 251 Club and begin traveling around the state to visit the towns we hadn’t been to. Since we had lived in Vermont for more than a decade, we’d already visited a few dozen towns, but we wanted to stay accountable for the towns we’d already seen and for the towns we would see during our journey. To document our visit to each town, we decided to take photos of every town’s welcome sign, since we assumed that most towns had welcome signs. Unlike churches or other landmarks, welcome signs suited our purposes well because they always have the town name printed on them.  

As it turns out, finding town welcome signs was not an easy task. We had to guess which through-roads were most likely to have a welcome sign posted on them, and we had to study our Vermont atlas and all the major roads to triangulate the welcome signs’ most likely positions. The pandemic further complicated our quest. Not only did we bring food and water and take road-side rest stops, but we also had to plan our routes so they were all day trips—we didn’t want to stay anywhere overnight for fear of catching or spreading COVID-19.  

 The first town we officially visited was Waltham, which we passed on the way back from a hike up Camel’s Hump June 7. Waltham was one of the few towns that didn’t have a welcome sign, so we photographed the town hall sign. As we discovered, some towns didn’t have welcome signs—to confirm we didn’t miss a welcome sign, I called every town clerk’s office to confirm they didn’t have a welcome sign. Some towns had welcome signs we had missed, so we had to go back and hunt them down. 

As the photos started accumulating on my phone, I wanted to combine them into one collage as a memento of our travels. One of my brother’s high school friends, Aiden Cole, offered to help with the design. I envisioned the collage in the shape of the state, with the pictures within each town’s boundaries. To make my vision a reality, Aiden first created the Vermont map town grid with the wooden borders. Then, he began inserting the pictures I had taken and fitting them within each town’s borders. It took a lot of teamwork to develop the look I wanted for the map, but ultimately, I wanted each picture to incorporate all the unique elements of the welcome signs without looking too cluttered. Sometimes we had to move logos around so they’d fit in the shape of the town, and sometimes we had to adjust the orientation of the signs so they’d fit. What Aiden created was truly a work of art!  

Vermont 251 Club map

The Addison Independent ran a story in September to commemorate our completion of the Vermont 251—my mom and I were determined to finish the journey before I headed off to graduate school. Since the article came out, my mom copyrighted the map while I completed my first quarter. When I returned for the holidays, the pandemic had drastically worsened across the country. With our newfound Vermont pride, my mom and I wanted to do something to help Vermonters. We had toyed with the idea of selling the map before, but profiting from it didn’t feel right—the joy we gained from traveling the whole state over the summer was priceless. We finally decided that we could sell the map and donate all the proceeds to the Vermont Foodbank as so many Vermonters are struggling due to the pandemic. To make our map accessible across the state, we asked our neighbor Justin Perdue, a web designer, to make a website, so we could sell small, medium and large prints of our map. 

We hope our fellow Vermonters will buy one or more maps as stocking stuffers for the holidays and spread the word as we help our “brave little state” navigate these tough times.