Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

HAC's Shelter Cape Cod Telethon Returns for 12th Year

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Nov 23, 2015 @ 10:28 AM


There are some who think that our world will always have poor people.

If that’s the case, NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar said it begs the question, “What will we do about it?”

HAC’s Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, he said, “is a direct response to that [question],” funding the agency’s shelter program which is aimed at helping the homeless get the services they need to get back onto their feet and into safe, decent housing.

In addition to the NOAH Shelter, beneficiaries of the telethon include HAC’s Carriage House in North Falmouth, The Village at Cataumet in Bourne and Angel House in Hyannis.

Funds raised help provide the homeless a warm bed to sleep in at the NOAH Shelter, engages individuals and families with housing, employment or health specialists and ultimately “helps them pick up the pieces to move ahead in their lives,” Bar said.

Paula Mallard, director of the Village at Cataumet, said the telethon “highlights the needs of the most vulnerable Cape Codders.” And it gives the community a chance to help them at a time of year, the holidays, when it is needed most.

Filmed at the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennis, the evening features live and pre-taped musical performances and interviews with HAC staff, volunteers and supporters as well as experts familiar with the region’s housing issues.

Terry Duenas, executive director of the media center, said the telethon, now in its 12th year, “is a great community event that brings together so many diverse folks from our community that are dedicated to the one cause of eliminating homelessness.”

“It helps us all be reawakened to the idea that there is a need all around us and there’s something we can do to help alleviate the need,” Bar added.

This year’s telethon will take place on Wednesday, December 9 from 5-9 pm and can be viewed on local cable access channel 98 or streamed live on the web at www.CapeMedia.org. Learn more about the telethon by clicking this link

Help Eliminate Homelessness on Cape Cod

Volunteer as a telethon phone fundraiser by contacting Volunteer Coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin at 508-771-5400 ext. 279 or volunteer@HAConCapeCod.org.

Want to become a telethon sponsor? Contact Deanna Bussiere at ext. 270 or dbussiere@HAConCapeCod.org.

Tags: Shelter Cape Cod Telethon

HAC Adds to Its Roster

Posted by HAC Staff on Wed, Nov 18, 2015 @ 02:25 PM
reckford.jpg Noah_Cropped1.jpg

Two longtime journalists joined HAC this month.

Laura M. Reckford is serving as HAC’s director of community relations and fundraising. She has been a reporter and editor on Cape Cod for more than 20 years. Most recently, she was news editor at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media and prior to that, she was editor at The Barnstable Enterprise newspaper. Reckford, who lives in Falmouth, previously held the position of senior writer at HAC in 2013.

Noah Hoffenberg is HAC’s director of housing information. In this role, Hoffenberg will be researching housing and homelessness issues, advocating for affordable housing and homelessness prevention measures and helping HAC assess its current programming. Hoffenberg, who lives in Sandwich, brings 15 years of journalism experience to HAC, having been the editor of two daily and two weekly newspapers.

Tags: HAC

Melpet Farm: A Unique History

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Nov 13, 2015 @ 02:35 PM

Last month HAC celebrated the near-completion of The Residences at Melpet Farm with a ribbon cutting ceremony. When finished, the development will consist of 27 affordable apartments on Route 134 in Dennis, providing a safe, secure home for Cape Codders. 

Long before affordable housing was ever considered for the property, the site once served as a Wild West theme park known as Frontier Valley. The brainchild of John Doherty and Chris Joyce, the park was built in 1957 and featured a dirt road flanked by a row of Western-style buildings that included a Pony Express, a trading post, bank and a jail (for outlaws, of course).

Families were entertained by wagon rides, riding demonstrations and mock-shoot outs between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

Among the more popular cowboys to wow Frontier Valley audiences was TV’s Rex Trailer, star of the children’s show “Boomtown”, who visited the park often.

Frontier Valley had a relatively short life, lasting less than a decade before being replaced by a stable where horses were boarded.

                                                   Source: Dennis, Cape Cod by Nancy Thacher Reed

Tags: Melpet Farm

Melpet Farm Project Allows Residents to Stay on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Nov 11, 2015 @ 11:54 AM
Vietnam veteran Daniel Paulsen in front of one of the apartment units at Melpet Farm.

The real impact of developing affordable housing on Cape Cod can be witnessed in the people that it helps. They are not unlike Vietnam veteran Daniel Paulsen who will soon move into one of 27 new affordable apartments at The Residences at Melpet Farm which HAC is building on Route 134 in Dennis with Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH).

While Paulsen, a native of Connecticut who moved here 11 years ago, always dreamed of living on Cape Cod, he acknowledged the region’s housing challenges are great. “You can’t find anything,” he said, particularly for someone like him who lives on a fixed income.

Paulsen’s arrival to the Cape was initially filled with promise. He started a painting business that was steadily growing until America’s financial crisis hit home in 2008. “I lost everything and moved back to Connecticut,” he said.

Still there was something pulling him back to this part of New England – his friends affectionately refer to him as “Cape Cod Dan” – so he decided to return. 

He admitted it has not been easy, but his fortune changed earlier this year when he filled out an application for an apartment at Melpet Farm. The development is intended for those earning 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) in Barnstable County or $36,780 for one person; $42,000 for two people; and $47,280 for three people.

Though he submitted an application, he said, “I didn’t think I even had a chance” which is why he never attended the housing lottery in July when Paulsen’s name was the first to be pulled. Paulsen said he was shocked when he first heard the news. Since then his excitement has only grown. “Seeing it in person is really amazing,” he said. “These are just gorgeous. It is unbelievable.”

At a ribbon cutting ceremony last month celebrating the near-completion of Melpet Farm, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said the satisfaction he derives from these types of projects is that they ultimately help those like Paulsen. “What I get thrilled at is the principle of getting people a decent place to live,” he said.

Consisting of eight residential buildings along with a community building, The Residences at Melpet Farm are designed to use half as much energy as a typical development. Solar panels will soon be placed on Melpet Farm, making it a net zero project “which means the project will produce nearly as much energy as it uses so that is quite a feat for an affordable housing development,” said Aaron Gornstein, president of POAH.

“But the real point of all of this is of course the residents who are going to be living here and the affordable housing that’s being provided,” added Gornstein, as he introduced Paulsen to the audience. “We can’t wait for you to move in.” “I can’t wait,” Paulsen replied.

Congressman William Keating said Cape Cod needs developments like this for its economy to thrive and to support its year-round workforce.

As he toured one of the completed units, Dennis Planning Board Chair Bob Mezzadri spoke about the importance of Melpet Farm to his community. “You can’t put a price tag on this,” he said. “There is a real need for affordable housing in all communities in Massachusetts, but it’s especially important to the Cape and the town of Dennis.”

Affordable housing projects like this, he said, can be used to keep the region’s workforce and younger population from moving off-Cape. “We have to do more of these,” he said.

Tags: Cape Cod, Melpet Farm

Support HAC by Shopping on AmazonSmile

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Nov 06, 2015 @ 01:16 PM

If you plan on shopping for gifts on Amazon this holiday season, there is an easy way for you to support HAC’s housing programs that won’t cost you anything. 

All you have to do is use your Amazon or Amazon Prime account and log onto AmazonSmile. Next designate Housing Assistance Corp. as your charity of choice.

You can then shop on AmazonSmile as you normally would and purchase the same products at the same prices on Amazon.com. A small portion (0.5%) of your purchase price will be donated to HAC.

This is a simple way you can give back and help those in need on Cape Cod this holiday season.

Big Fix Volunteers Show Compassion for Their Neighbors

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Nov 06, 2015 @ 11:53 AM

Martha Handel with HAC CEO Rick Presbrey (left) and HAC Vice President of Administration Michael Sweeney. 

“I lost my husband to cancer nine years ago,” Martha Handel said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I know he is watching over me because he brought these angels here today.”

Those “angels” were roughly a half-dozen volunteers who spent the second-to-last Saturday in October removing some bamboo and tearing down an old shed on Handel’s Pocasset property as part of HAC’s Big Fix. It was relatively minor work, but to Handel it meant the world. 

That type of gratitude was on full display in Bourne where roughly 175 volunteers from throughout Cape Cod came out to help 12 residents in need. Now in its sixth year, the Big Fix aims to improve the quality of life for veterans, seniors and the disabled by making small improvements to their homes, the type of work that is often too difficult and expensive for them to undertake.

Paula Mallard, director of the Village at Cataumet, and her husband Bill witnessed firsthand how meaningful the day can be for recipients of the work. The couple spent time at Susan and Paul Tudor’s Sagamore Beach home, where a small crew did yard work, painted their front stairs and power-washed and repaired the back deck.

Two days prior to the Big Fix, Bill had visited the Tudor’s home to do prep work, noticing that they remained inside and seemed “very, very depressed.”

During the Big Fix, their mood completely changed. “They were outside working with us,” Bill said. “It was just unbelievable… They were so appreciative of the fact that someone would take the time to care for them.”

The event engenders a real compassion that struck HAC CEO Rick Presbrey who visited several homes during the day. In an email to staff following the Big Fix, he called it “the best feel-good thing we do all year. Twelve homes and 12 homeowners overflowed with gratitude and appreciation and amazement at what our team of volunteers accomplished.”

Volunteers included a group from AmeriCorps Cape Cod, Boy Scout Troop 36 from Mashpee, students from Barnstable High School’s human rights club and a dozen Home Depot employees, mostly from their Wareham store.

“I see all of you and you’re here for no other reason than to help somebody in need,” Kate Ferreira, the project manager for the Big Fix, told the group during the morning kick-off.

In previous years, Larry O’Brien and his children Savannah, 18, Ben, 16, and Jackson, 15, have been on the giving side of the Big Fix equation. This year, they were on the receiving end as they saw roughly two dozen volunteers clean up their yard, repair a back deck and replace an entire wall of the back porch of their home which was built in the 1830s. “It is kind of humbling to have people come out to our house and help,” O’Brien said. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate what you are doing here. This gives us a chance to where we can now maintain our home again.”

Sannie Rocheteau of Yarmouth used the event as a teaching moment for her son Noah Delano, 8, as they cleaned brush from Vietnam veteran Brian Cullity’s yard. “I’m teaching my son the value of community service and hard work,” Sannie said, adding that the event fed her own “passion to feel connected with other human beings. At the end of the day, we’re all part of the same world.”

To see more photos from this year's Big Fix, visit our Facebook page here

Did You Know? 

Our Bourne Big Fix volunteers donated a total of 826 hours, showing how you can give your time and make a major difference in the lives of those in need. 


Tags: Big Fix

Cat's Melodeon Raises Funds for HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Nov 03, 2015 @ 09:03 AM
Courtesy of Karen Vail/Cat's Melodeon performs during their recent fundraiser for HAC

Donations are not always about the amount of money raised. Sometimes it’s about the intent.

Such is the case with Cat’s Melodeon, a group of musicians headed by the self-proclaimed “head buck cat” Bill Black of Falmouth, which plays gigs throughout Cape Cod as a way to give back to the community. Twice a month the group will donate proceeds from their sessions to a local charity.

“We’re playing music, but also raising money for multiple sclerosis or the Cape Cod Veterans or Project Bread,” Black said, listing some of the causes they’ve supported through their music.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in September, Cat’s Melodeon added HAC to that list when they performed at Sandwich’s Titcomb’s Bookshop. From that performance, $200 was raised that will go towards HAC’s housing efforts on the Cape.

“We wish it could have been a lot more money, but there will be opportunities in the future to do something again,” said Black, who plays the banjo, guitar and bouzouki for Cat’s Melodeon which is known for its traditional Irish music.

Several members of the informal musical group chose HAC after receiving a letter in the mail from the agency this summer. But their relationship with HAC goes further as many are friends with HAC’s Vice President of Program Operations Nancy Davison.

Black’s rationale for encouraging this type of philanthropy is tied to his faith. “I’m a Catholic,” he said. “It sounds comical, but basically I’m trying to take whatever talents I’m given, as far as music is concerned, and giving some of it back. I’d like to think our lord would be very happy with that scenario. Some of our other musicians are not Catholic, but they see the value of musicians giving back to society… Plus, we’re having a lot of fun while doing it so it’s kind of a win-win proposition.”

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: The Thrill of Success

Posted by Rick Presbrey on Thu, Oct 29, 2015 @ 10:24 AM

Having been at this for a long time you might think that I don’t get a thrill out of some of our accomplishments.

You would be wrong.

The thrill I get is directly related to how much fear I have during the years of planning that each project takes. For example, as we work to create a new and better shelter for individuals, I have lots of apprehension about finding a good location, getting the money, and developing an innovative program that responds to the needs of the client population. Once all that is achieved, I will be thrilled. Any time we tackle a difficult problem and achieve success it is very satisfying and thrilling.

One such achievement, many years ago, was the construction of 99 homes under our self-help housing program. That program operated from 1979 to 1984 and was responsible for building homes in 14 towns on the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard. HAC taught families in groups how to build their own homes with each group led by a construction supervisor. It was very difficult. People worked their spare hours for more than a year before the homes were completed.

Last week I ran into a woman, who I had no recollection of, and as I encountered her she enthusiastically called out my name saying, “Oh, you are Rick Presbrey,” as if I was a celebrity. (I hardly think of myself in that way these or any other days). She then explained that she and her husband had been part of a self-help group in Falmouth, which I had organized, and that they had built a home and were still living in it 30 years later! Her enthusiasm was very validating and, yes, thrilling.

One regret I have always had is that we never built any homes on Nantucket. But that is about to change! And that, for me, is a thrill! Not only have we created and currently operate a successful development program, building all affordable homes and apartments, many of which have encountered seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but now we have achieved the Holy Grail of our development profession and are achieving the impossible: 40 affordable for-purchase homes on the most expensive place in Massachusetts: Nantucket. Hooray for us!

Yes, there has been lots of fear of failure. A thousand meetings, dozens of crises, and many changes of plans. Houdini couldn’t have faced as many challenges as we did just getting the money to make the homes affordable.

What makes me especially satisfied, even though not a single house has been completed yet, was that last week we received the signed 15th purchase and sale agreement for the last house for phase one of the project. The bank and the Zoning Board of Appeals, skeptical (as we sometimes were) of our probability of success, required that we pre-sell all the houses prior to construction. No model homes to show, just roads and vacant lots and drawings to convince people to take a chance. We also weren’t sure that people would qualify, would have good enough credit, and have the needed down payment, but they did and it is happening. Foundations are in and the first families will move in on or about the first of the New Year!

Kudos to all who played important parts in this including many from Nantucket, our past and present staff at HAC and our champion consultant Kevin Maguire.

FSS Client Helps Those Suffering from Cancer

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Oct 26, 2015 @ 01:30 PM


About 14 years ago, Angelina Bologna was at a point in her life when leaving Cape Cod would have been perfectly understandable.

She was young, earning a living wage here was difficult and affordable housing in the region was scarce. But unlike many of her peers who have moved off-Cape since that time, she decided to remain here for one simple reason – her family.

That family starts with her 13-year-old daughter Milagra. Because of her, Bologna made the choice to live with her parents, providing an essential safety net as she forged her own path towards sustainability. “It was very important for me to have a support system in place, especially while my daughter was young,” Bologna said.

Bologna’s path led her to Cape Cod Community College where she received a certificate in massage therapy in 2008.

Two years later, she was working part-time and still with her parents when she applied for an apartment in a new affordable housing development, Thankful Chase Pathway, in Harwich. “I was living with my parents which was wonderful, but also stifling being an adult and being a mom,” Bologna admitted. “I wasn’t able to parent [my daughter] the way I wanted because I had to respect my parent’s boundaries as well.”

That changed in December 2010 when Bologna’s housing application was accepted and she moved into her new apartment. It was both a joyous time in her life and a sad one. A month earlier her Nona had passed away, a little more than a year after she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That diagnosis later became the seed for Bologna’s latest endeavor – offering massages to oncology patients, free of charge, once a month.

She does so through her company, Hands of an Angel Massage Therapy, which she opened in 2012. The name was inspired by her grandmother. “That is what my Nona said one time when I was rubbing her feet after she had surgery,” Bologna said. “She said it felt like I had the hands of an angel.”

A year after she founded the business, which is located in Dennis, Bologna was able to focus her energies solely on its growth while not shirking her duties as a parent.

Today, Bologna is representative of the type of people – young, driven and contributing to the community - that Cape Cod desperately wants to retain.

While she has over three dozen regular clients that allow her to work five days a week, she is still expanding. She recently decided to focus on those undergoing cancer treatments. “It helps with pain management and helps for someone to lay their hands on you in a loving way,” Bologna said. “To go somewhere where you can be held and supported, you can’t minimize the efficacy of that, especially with what they’re going through.”

HAC’s role in all of this is that the agency has allowed Bologna to flourish to the point that the future looks brighter than it ever did before. Two years ago, Bologna entered into HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program which provides financial incentives for participants who are receiving federal and state assistance to boost their income. As one’s salary increases, so does their rent. That increase in rent is then placed into a savings account which is accessible upon the completion of the program.

So far Bologna has found that the program is doing wonders for her confidence and her personal and career ambitions. “The opportunity to join the FSS program and knowing when the rent does go up and the difference is put into an escrow account is an incentive and motivation to keep growing my business and make it more financially viable,” she said.

Whole Foods Places a Priority on Giving Back

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 @ 01:36 PM
DSC_7003-1Courtney Wittenstein, the former team marketing leader at Whole Foods in Hyannis, said the best part of her job was supporting community organizations like HAC.

The academic term for a business’s ethical and moral obligations to its immediate and extended community is known as corporate social responsibility.

So what exactly does that look like in the real world? On Cape Cod, one need only visit Whole Foods in Hyannis, to understand how this buzzword has become more than just a talking point and the actual foundation on which a company can help a community thrive.

Since opening in May of last year, the grocery food chain has placed a priority on giving back in large and small ways to Cape Cod and beyond. “One of the core values of Whole Foods is to give back to the local and global community,” the store’s former marketing team leader Courtney Wittenstein said. 

It begins with the products stocked on the store’s shelves. Many are from local vendors or from small farms in countries that have received micro-loans from Whole Foods to help them not only survive, but thrive.

At the grassroots level, Whole Foods devotes one day each quarter and picks one local charity to receive 5 percent of all sales. Past recipients have included Wellfleet Shellfish Promotion and Tasting (SPAT) and Calmer Choice. In June, HAC was the beneficiary of that day, receiving nearly $3,000 towards its housing programs. 

The store’s generosity does not end there. Every month, it works with a variety of Cape-based organizations, providing in-kind donations, whether it’s food or gift certificates, to support their fundraisers and events.

“We want to have a community connection,” Wittenstein said. “It is really important to us.”

Among the organizations that Whole Foods has aligned itself with is HAC. Once a week, the company donates groceries to the NOAH Shelter and Angel House. These donations have ranged from pasta to bread to dairy products.

From a budgetary standpoint, HAC has already seen a benefit from its relationship with Whole Foods. NOAH’s grocery bills have been slashed from $2,500 in 2013 to $1,200 last year. “Not only does this donation offer healthier and varied food choices, but it allows us to put resources back into helping our clients find permanent housing,” said Julie Wake, HAC’s former director of communications and development.

The added benefit to HAC clients is that they have a chance to eat healthier food they normally would not be exposed to. “Everything that comes from Whole Foods is total quality,” Greg Bar, the director of the NOAH Shelter, said. “It is stuff we would never dream of buying ourselves.”

Whole Foods charity to HAC has extended beyond these donations to include pumpkins which Angel House mothers decorated with their children prior to Halloween. The store also donates decorated cakes to children celebrating birthdays at Angel House.

And last December, Whole Foods set up a giving tree for customers and store employees to donate gifts to more than 30 children living in shelter or who had recently made the transition out of shelter. “It being the giving season, it brought a lot of life into the store because people wanted to give, but didn’t know where or how to give,” Wittenstein said, noting that it reinforced the fact that, “people love to give, especially to kids because it is so important.”

Wittenstein said Whole Foods’ commitment to HAC will only continue. 

And she was hopeful that store employees could visit Angel House and the NOAH Shelter to understand who Whole Foods is helping through its philanthropic efforts. “I think it is really important for our team members to see where this is all going because they will maybe think twice before throwing something away and realize they could be potentially feeding a family,” she said.

Though her job was multi-faceted, Wittenstein said the most rewarding aspect was being able to give back to organizations like HAC. “This is the favorite part of my job because I get to go home knowing I have helped people. It is so gratifying,” she said.