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'Kinship Families' In Vermont Mourn Their Biggest Advocate, Lost To COVID-19

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

As the U.S. nears 600,000 deaths due to the pandemic, it's hard to fathom the true toll - lives cut short, dreams unfulfilled, hearts broken. And we've been sharing a few stories of the people that have been lost as told by those who knew them.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today we remember Lynn Granger from Milton, Vt.

BETTY HOLTEN: She would go out of her way to help somebody.

SHAPIRO: That's Lynn's friend, Betty Holten. They met through a support group for kinship families - people raising children on behalf of relatives or friends who are unable.

CORNISH: Betty was raising her grandchild while her daughter battled substance abuse issues. Betty reached out to the group because she was struggling.

HOLTEN: If you do foster care, you get a lot of help from the state. But if you have just custody, the social worker still sees you, but they don't give you any financial help.

CORNISH: It was there that she met Lynn, a teacher and single mother now raising her own grandchild. Lynn founded the group Vermont Kin As Parents after she faced challenges and wanted to use her experience to help others. She provided much-needed advocacy and served on legislative committees.

SALLY BORDEN: She had a vision for a statewide organization to support grandparents and other kinship care providers.

SHAPIRO: That's Sally Borden, who worked with Lynn at a grant organization for families in Burlington. She said Lynn worked tirelessly to secure funds for child care, counseling and sometimes basic utilities and essentials.

BORDEN: She also established a position of a kinship care navigator, somebody that could just help with the different issues that come up. I'm suddenly raising three children and wasn't counting on that. She made that happen.

SHAPIRO: Even in her spare time, Lynn thought of others. Her sister and best friend, Anne Granger Devino, who didn't want to be recorded, says Lynn used her creative talents to brighten people's days, making pottery as gifts, scrapbooking memories, decorating birthday cakes. She was so dedicated to serving others that Anne believes it shaped the end of her story.

CORNISH: Lynn was struggling with losing her memory and sight. She entered an assisted care facility and contracted COVID. Anne says she went quickly. Betty says the virus was actually a blessing because not being able to see others or help them was just too difficult for Lynn. Betty says if she could tell Lynn anything...

HOLTEN: Rest in peace. You did such a good job - just wonderful.

SHAPIRO: Sally echoes that message.

BORDEN: She has left a tremendous legacy. The people of Vermont, children in Vermont, are better off because of Lynn Granger.

SHAPIRO: Lynn Granger was 74 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.