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Map pays dividends for Vermont Foodbank

WEYBRIDGE RESIDENT MICHELE Hernandez Bayliss and her daughter, Alexia, visited all 251 Vermont communities this past summer, and they’re selling copies of a creative, colorful state map that commemorates their journey. Proceeds from sales of the map will be donated (minus expenses) to the Vermont Foodbank.

WEYBRIDGE — You’d think visiting all 251 Vermont municipalities over the course of a summer would be rewarding enough for two intrepid travelers.
But Weybridge resident Michele Hernandez Bayliss and her daughter, Alexia, have turned their epic road trip into an artistic fundraiser that will help fill the plates and bowls of the many hungry people through whose communities they travelled.
The Independent in September published a story about the mother-daughter odyssey through the Green Mountain State. The weeks-long trip provided the duo a safe way to explore their extended backyard, a journey they immortalized with photos of welcome signs/logos of each of the 251 Vermont municipalities they traversed during what Michele referred to as their “Pandemic Peregrinations.” For towns that didn’t have welcome signs, they photographed markers at other prominent locations, including fire departments, schools, general stores, and town clerks’ offices.
Waltham was the first community they crossed off their list, on June 7. Woodbury proved to be the last piece to be positioned in their 251-piece jigsaw puzzle, on Aug. 23.
Alexia, who started graduate school this fall, and Aiden Cole, a Middlebury Union High School senior and family friend, co-designed a Vermont map layout on which each of the 251 photos were skillfully positioned in the appropriate spots.
Michele and Alexia initially looked upon the resulting map poster as a wonderful memento of their summer sojourn, as well as polished project that Cole could add to his scholastic portfolio.
But they found that others who eyeballed the colorful poster wanted a copy of their own. This gave them the confidence to copyright their creation and pump out numerous copies to sell for what they consider to be a crucial cause: Feeding the hungry, whose ranks are swelling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Given how devastating the impact of COVID has been on every aspect of our lives, we wanted to prioritize basic necessities like food so that no Vermonter, especially children, should have to go hungry,” Michele, one of America’s foremost college consultants, said through an email.
“This map project is Vermont through and through,” Alexia said. 
“The best part is the all this work directly benefits Vermonters all across the state.”
They found storeowners at Middlebury’s Vermont Book Shop and the Middlebury Frameshop and Gallery to be enthusiastic partners in the philanthropic endeavor.
Becky Dayton, owner of Vermont Book Shop, said she was happy to have her historic business serve as a vehicle for the poster sales.
“It’s a cool map and entirely relevant to our Vermont brand,” Dayton said. “I think the map will make a great addition to kitchens, 4th-graders’ bedrooms and college dorm rooms all over the state and beyond. And as a philanthropic sort myself, I love the benefit aspect. The Vermont Foodbank is a very worthy organization and I hope we can be a part of helping to raise a nice pile of money for them.”
And in an effort to drum up more sales and export Vermont’s good name far and wide, the duo enlisted the help of Justin Perdue to create a website called vt251map.com, through which folks can also order the posters.
Customers have a choice of three different poster sizes: 11-by-14 inches (for $24.99), 18-by-24 inches (for $39.99), and 24-by-36 inches (for $69.99). The frame-able maps will come rolled up in a tube with a sticker of the map on the outside.
All the proceeds from sales of the posters (minus expenses) go to the Vermont Foodbank. Headquartered in Barre, the Vermont Foodbank is the state’s largest hunger relief organization, providing nutritious food through a network of more than 300 community partners — food shelves, meal sites, senior centers, afterschool programs, schools and hospitals. The Vermont Foodbank provides about 12 million pounds of food annually to people throughout the state.
“So perfect for a holiday gift that gives,” Michele said of the map posters.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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