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Good Neighbors: Hope Totes Buffalo

When someone is hospitalized you ask their family members, 'what can I do to help?' This week's "Good Neighbors" took that idea, and turned it into a charity.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Learning that a loved one is hospitalized with a serious medical condition can leave caregivers panic-stricken and overwhelmed. 

And that's where this week's 2 On Your Side's "Good Neighbors" have stepped in to help.

"When you're the parent of a child with a serious medical illness all you are thinking about it how you can support your child. Those parents need something to hold them up," said Colleen Marchetta, whose son, Jack, was diagnosed in 2014 with a rare autoimmune disease. 

After spending so much time in the hospital, she knew exactly how she needed to help her friend Amy Velez when her own son, Thomas, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She delivered a bag filled with necessities for caregivers. 

"Inside was the binder, and she said 'Amy, you're going to be thrown so many pieces of information and you're going to have so many questions, and you're going to think of something in the middle of the night. Write it down in the notebook and you'll be able to talk to the doctor when he comes in,'" said Velez of her friend Marchetta. "You are in shock. In that state of mind, you are never thinking, 'I've got to go to Office Max and get organized.' It just doesn't happen. You need someone to do it for you."

And that was the first of many Hope Totes. Kate Glaser of Hope Rises and Make-a-Wish WNY joined Marchetta and Velez as they turned Hope Totes Buffalo into a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Inside each Vera Bradley bag is a medical binder with business card holders and file organizers, pens and paper, a planner, comfy slippers, a blanket pillow and more. 

"With every tote that we give we have a note that we write for each recipient. In every note we write, we say, 'We hope this tote wraps you in love,'" said Marchetta.

Since they started the organization in July 2020 they've collected donations and have delivered more than 30 Hope Totes to families in Western New York hospitals. Each tote is valued at $125. 

They are also grateful to the Vera Bradley Outlet at the Fashion Outlets in Niagara for donating many bags and supplies.

 "We couldn't do it without the City of Good Neighbors. One-hundred percent of the money and donations that come in go right to this," said Marchetta.

They're offering a little help - and a little hope - during the most trying of times.

"There was one particular woman who made us all cry with her response just that it lifted her spirit up and added hope to her life when she felt that maybe it was dwindling with her diagnosis. So it's been very rewarding. And we pray for the recipients and their families as well," said Velez.

If you'd like to donate to Hope Totes, sponsor a tote or request a tote, click on the link to Hope Totes Buffalo here.

Email - hopetotesbuffalo@gmail.com

Facebook: @hopetotesbuffalo

Instagram: @hopetotesbuffalo

Twitter: @hopetotesbuf

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