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Cape Cod's Top Musicians Fight Homelessness at Christmas Cavalcade

 

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Some people give once a month. Some people give once a quarter. And some like Eastham’s Chandler Travis do so once a year.

Over the past decade the popular musician has done so at a time when giving is en vogue, the holidays, using his connections to bring together the Cape’s most talented artists for one night of seasonal fare. He will do so again this year as part of the 11th Annual Cape Cod Christmas Cavalcade this Sunday, December 14 at 7 PM at the Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans.

There is a suggested donation of $25 to attend and all money raised from the holiday concert will go to benefit the NOAH Shelter which serves Cape Cod’s homeless men and women.

Sponsors include Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, Goff Brothers Construction Company, Cape Air and the Wellfleet Beachcomber.

Among the acts that will be performing at the Cavalcade are The Ticks, Fred Fried, The Rip it Ups, Christine Ernst, Steve Shook & the Elftone All-Girl Ukelele Revue, Polka Dan & the Beetbox Band, Sarah Burrill, Edwige Yingling, Sarah Swain & the Oh Boys, Toast & Jam and Travis’ own band the Chandler Travis Philharmonic.

As to why he organizes the event, Travis said, “it is important to me because I have a very selfish lifestyle and it’s nice to have one day a year when I can do something for somebody else. And it is fun for me because I really like Christmas music. I like a holiday that has its own music and the music is as bipolar as the holiday.”

The Cavalcade is enjoyable for the musicians because it allows them to play songs, “they are not sick to death of already,” Travis laughed.

The allure for fans is that they get to see the Cape’s best musicians come together for one night of holiday-themed music. “It’s always a blast,” Travis promised.

State Lends its Support to Sachem's Path Project

 
DSC 0053 resized 600Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick with HAC's Kate Ferreira at a press conference in June announcing funding for several affordable housing projects including Sachem's Path on Nantucket. 

During Massachusetts’ 2nd Annual Housing Week in June, HAC’s housing development project manager Kate Ferreira drove up to Dorchester to attend a press conference where Governor Deval L. Patrick announced state funding towards the initial phase of a project that will bring 40 affordable homes to Nantucket.

That was the first of several milestones that have been reached in recent months that has made the Sachem’s Path project a reality.

Along with the state commitment of $1.485 million towards Sachem’s Path, the town of Nantucket transferred the 10 acres of land, where the 40 units will be built, to HAC in August. A few days later HAC staff, along with many of the key players in the project - Nantucket Housing Authority, Housing Nantucket, Habitat for Humanity Nantucket, the Nantucket Community Preservation Committee, Horsley Witten Group and Oxbow Partners – gathered at the Dreamland Theater on Nantucket to celebrate how far Sachem’s Path has come and how close it is to fruition.

To learn more about Sachem’s Path and to keep up to date with the progress of the project visit www.sachemspath.org and LIKE the Sachem’s Path Facebook page.

Lonnie Daniels Lends Expertise to the Day Center at NOAH

 

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A career in the social services can be difficult, particularly when helping those who are most vulnerable in society.

Lonnie Daniels knows this all too well. For roughly two decades he has worked with HIV patients, abused children and homeless adults. This is just a short list of people the 40-year-old has encountered in his profession.

The Brooklyn-born Daniels has held stints at the Germaine Lawrence Campus in Arlington; McLean Hospital in Brighton; Boston Living Center; and the Andrus Children’s Center in Yonkers, all nonprofits that provide treatment and care for children and adults with a host of complex needs.

Now Daniels is bringing his experience to HAC as a consultant for the Day Center at NOAH which opened in May as a way to give Cape Cod’s homeless population a safe place to stay during the day.

Daniels, who oversees the day-to-day operations for Father Bill’s homeless shelter in Quincy, was introduced to NOAH while conducting training for shelter staff earlier this year.

Shortly thereafter, Daniels was hired to serve as a consultant, providing guidance as HAC goes through the growing pains of running a day shelter. Though he lives in Roxbury, Daniels makes the commute to Hyannis two to three times a week.

He works closely with NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar, observing the day center operations and finding ways it can run more efficiently. “I’m doing observations of the staff, the clients, the building and the flow of traffic and I’m assessing what resources are here and what I see is needed,” Daniels said in explaining his role.

That role is focused on the current parameters HAC is working with and not dealing with what-ifs like wanting a new building for the NOAH Shelter. “We should work with the building we have first,” he stressed.

Bar had high praise for Daniels, calling him “very personable… He knows how to work with all kinds of people.” Beyond that, Bar said, that Daniels has been tremendously helpful in formulating a vision for NOAH that aligns with what community leaders want from the day center.

Prior to working with NOAH, Daniels admitted that he had a similar perception about the homeless on Cape Cod as many tourists do – there are none. “For me, it’s opened my eyes to the homeless population that is here,” he said, noting that they are not unlike the people he crosses paths with at Father Bill’s.

Regardless of where they are from, Daniels relishes the opportunity to help the homeless take the steps necessary to improve their lives. “It is possible,” he said. “Homelessness is a temporary state.”

Daniels, who is currently studying to obtain his master’s in divinity from Gordon College, hopes to one day start a ministry that incorporates the homeless issue as its primary mission. This line of work, he acknowledged, is not easy, but the reward is in knowing that he has made a positive difference in someone’s life. “I’ve worked with folks with serious issues in a variety of different capacities. It’s a challenge,” he said. “But if, at the end of the day, I can get the man or woman sitting across from me to smile and take their mind off of their problems for even a half a second it’s worth it. It [success] is measured in small little increments.”

Homemade Blankets a Gift of Love for Shelter Clients

 
DSC 5994 resized 600Members of the knitting group include Rose McGillycuddy (from left), Betty Dewar, crochet instructor Wanda Blair of Michael’s, Bridget Fallon, Darlene Simmons, the operations manager at Michael’s, Eileen McDonald, a case manager from Carriage House, Susan Cunningham and Paulette Loomis.

At what point in life do you stop helping others?

If you ask a group of women at the Cape Cod Senior Residences in Bourne their answers will all be the same – you don’t.

Take 88-year-old Paulette Loomis. She is legally blind. “I only have a little vision in my right eye,” she said.

Still that has not stopped Loomis from participating in an activity that has provided complete strangers with a little warmth. She is one of roughly a half dozen women living at the Bourne senior facility who have devoted their time turning strings of yarn into colorful blankets for women and their children staying at the Carriage House Shelter.

“It feels like I’m doing something to ease their pain,” Loomis said. “You feel like you’re doing something for somebody in a small way.”

Individually, the women knit or crochet seven-by-nine-inch squares in their apartments and come together once a month at Michael’s in Falmouth, where they take those squares and turn them into blankets under the guidance of instructor Wanda Blair.

Blair oversees the store’s annual Warm Up America! event in which volunteers throughout the country make hand-knit blankets for those in need.

Darlene Simmons, the operations manager at the Michael’s branch in Falmouth occasionally knits with the group. Last year, she said, they made their first blanket donation to Carriage House. They enjoyed that experience so much they continued to meet monthly to knit and crochet together.

Their joy was derived from the actual knitting, the socialization and the knowledge that someone would benefit from their work. “They feel like they are helping people,” Simmons said. “They feel fortunate and are reaching out to people who are not as fortunate.”

DSC 6001 resized 600Despite being legally blind, Paulette Loomis (right) still finds time to knit blankets for Carriage House clients.

As she knit inside Michael’s in October, Rose McGillycuddy, one month shy of 95, spoke about what the hobby has meant to her. “I’ve been knitting since I was 16,” she said. “It is restful. I like it when I can make something for people who really appreciate it. I think that is very rewarding.”

That same day Rose, Paulette, Betty Dewar, Bridget Fallon and Susan Cunningham, all from the Cape Cod Senior Residences, presented Carriage House case manager Eileen McDonald with two large blankets and seven lap robes. That is on top of two large blankets and four lap robes they donated to Carriage House about two months earlier.

“These blankets are more than just for warmth,” Carriage House facility director Katie Geissler said when asked what they mean to the shelter’s clients. “When wrapped around they are a hug given by someone who wants to show they care. It is important that our women know that they are supported because love and compassion are two ingredients needed for healing.”

 

Give Your Own Gift to Shelter Clients

 

Rick Presbrey's Editorial: To Be Useful

 

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I am sure all of us have different thought processes. Just the nature of being an introvert or extrovert alone would make each of us think very differently. Confidence is another trait. Of my four kids, one was born with great confidence or so it seems. Confidence sometimes allows you to try new things with less fear of failure. Each of us is different. Some have a powerful drive to achieve. One of my kids has that drive. Some of who we are may relate to our relationship with our mother or father.

My father never thought of me as having accomplished much. But then I never tried hard to please him. I don’t think he ever understood my passion for helping people. Thirty-five years ago I took him to see some houses families had built with their own hands, with HAC supervision, in Marstons Mills. Rather than being impressed with the feat, he pointed out things about the houses he didn’t like. The moment has stayed with me, in part, because I was surprised he didn’t understand that he needed to praise my accomplishment and needed to realize that helping unskilled people learn to build their own homes can make a dramatic improvement in their lives.

As I have aged, my increasing self-awareness and self-understanding have helped me discover things about myself. One of those things, and this is the point of this editorial, is that I don’t believe in punishment, or at least the level of punishment prevalent in our society. I have wanted punishment for people who have wronged me, but I believe that such retribution would serve no useful purpose.

Teaching self-discipline and imposing punishment are not the same thing.

As I look back on our lives, raising my now 20-year-old son, I can’t remember ever punishing him. I do vaguely remember some moments in “time-out,” but I don’t think I ever yelled at him or took something - a privilege or a possession - away from him.

He is home from college for a week now and what a pleasure it is to be with him. 

Discipline Through Positive Reinforcement

I believe that encouraging positive activities is the best way to “discipline” a child. Developing healthy ideas and activities through positive reinforcement is a great teaching tool to help kids develop self-management skills.

At HAC, I manage the staff, myself and to some extent, my boss. I am by far the hardest one to manage. I am hard on myself, sometimes to no avail. In managing staff, it is not about the mistakes they might make, it is about the successes they have and the good work they do. Our staff, who I consider my friends, are very motivated and skilled. I am grateful for them. I hope they feel the same way about me.

Several years ago I visited South Africa with my wife who had work there. We visited a memorial for Amy Biehl who had been murdered in the early ‘90’s by four black youths protesting white rule. Amy was a Rhodes Scholar who attended Stanford University and had gone to South Africa to work on developing voter registration for the first election where all races were allowed to vote. Amy’s parents, with donations and government help, set up a foundation in her honor to continue Amy’s work.

After four years in prison two of the murderers applied for pardons. Amy’s parents testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asking for mercy and the two were released. The two were then hired by the Foundation where they were working as recently as 2008, according to my research.

Testifying before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on July 8, 1997, Amy’s father read a passage from a book by biologist and humanist Lewis Thomas that Amy had herself used in her high school valedictorian speech:

“The drive to be useful is encoded in our genes. But when we gather in very large numbers, as in the modern nation-state, we seem capable of levels of folly and self-destruction to be found nowhere else in all of nature.”

If the drive to be useful is what motivates us all, then it is up to us to create a path for that drive to flourish. I hope we do that at HAC and for our children and the families we serve.

Shop on AmazonSmile and Support HAC

 

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Do you plan on purchasing holiday gifts for family or friends on Amazon this year?

If the answer to this question is yes then you can help support HAC from the comfort of your home. It’s easy and there is no cost to you.

Simply use your Amazon or Amazon Prime account and log onto AmazonSmile and designate Housing Assistance Corp. as your charity of choice. To donate to HAC directly through AmazonSmile click this link

You can then shop for the same products, at the same prices, as you normally would on Amazon.com, only this time you will be making a difference to your neighbors in need.

When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates a small portion (0.5%) of your purchase price to HAC. So not only are you buying one gift, you’re giving another to someone who may be struggling to survive on Cape Cod. And that is something to smile about.

St. Pius School Students Show Compassion for the Cape's Homeless

 

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At the St. Pius X School in Yarmouth, students have set some lofty career goals. One wants to be an actress. Another wants to be an author.

Sixth grader Ana Wolfe, 11, wants to one day live in Washington D.C. where she hopes to serve as an ambassador to Paris, France. Why? “Because I love to do ballet and there are a lot of good ballet companies there,” she said.

Not one said they wanted to be homeless.

And if one were to visit the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, the clients there would all admit that they never envisioned they would be homeless when they were the same age.

So on the Friday before Thanksgiving, those clients had some advice for a group of roughly 36 St. Pius students in fifth through eighth grade. They were simple, but powerful messages like:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Get an education
  • Have compassion for people
  • Pay it forward
  • Set goals you can reach

Those messages were delivered to the students by NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar who took part in the school’s first-ever Cardboard City project that was aimed at introducing the idea of homelessness to the children.

In the days leading up to the event, students decorated their own individual cardboard boxes with some, like sixth grader Mary Skordas, opting to write inspirational quotes like this one from Anne Frank:

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

And for a brief moment on one November night, students had a chance to empathize with the homeless by spending an hour in those boxes not long after having a basic meal of soup, sandwiches and fruit and hearing from Bar and Ginny Lewis of the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH).

As to how people end up homeless, Bar said, it could be substance abuse, job loss or divorce. “There are a lot of situations out there and it is all sad. It is really sad,” he said. “When you end up at a place like the NOAH Shelter it is just the worst tragedy that has happened in your life.”

DSC 6865 resized 600Greg Bar addresses middle schoolers at St. Pius X School about homelessness on Cape Cod.

Maura Gogan, the business manager for St. Pius, served as the inspiration for the project based on a similar one she observed at a high school in Santa Clara, California, where she previously lived. There the students spent an entire weekend in a cardboard box to raise awareness and funds for the homeless situation in that West Coast city.

Having moved to Cape Cod two years ago, Gogan said, she was surprised to see so many homeless in this part of the state. She was hopeful that this project would inspire St. Pius students to “show compassion and empathize with the homeless,” she said. “Instead of ignoring them, they may now look at them as a person. And even if they can’t give them money, they can help them with a smile… Whatever they can give, hopefully they give from the heart.”

St. Pius teacher Christine Guzman took Gogan’s idea and ran with it, overseeing the students’ efforts which ended with some creating posters that will go in the NOAH Shelter and writing notes to shelter clients.

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For at least one student, fifth grader Morgan Silva (pictured above), 10, the project was the start of something bigger.

His goal is to one day open a shelter like NOAH or, at the least, offer the homeless a place to stay for a night or two. “I think we can really do more than what we’re doing,” he said. “I want to eradicate homelessness.”

Yoga Helps Angel House Clients Regulate Emotions

 
DSC 0500 resized 600Virginia Hoeck of Yoga Neighborhood leads the yoga class at Angel House

“Take a deep breath in,” Virginia Hoeck says, pausing briefly before continuing. “And take a deep breath out.”

Ten other women, mostly Angel House clients, but some staff, follow Hoeck’s lead, seated cross-legged on yoga mats inside the shelter’s family room. Joining the mothers on this September day are their children, ranging in age from a few months old to over one year old.

“Now raise your arms out wide,” Hoeck says, before instructing them to bring their arms back in “and give your babies a hug.”

Since June, Hoeck, owner of the nonprofit Yoga Neighborhood, and her fellow instructors have been bringing yoga to Angel House roughly once a week, using it to help clients find peace internally and with the world around them.

“I love it,” said 24-year-old Alicia Morgan, who explained that yoga has helped her “be more aware of my emotions. I feel really relaxed and it has helped me with my anger management.”

Yoga, which is deeply rooted in meditation, has allowed Angel House’s Ashley Cabral to better “regulate my emotions and feelings.”

Ashley, who graduated from Angel House a little over a month ago, planned on continuing it once out of shelter. “I will do it just to meditate and stay grounded,” she said, relying on yoga as she takes the next steps towards independence which will include holding her first job in years. “I’m very excited, very nervous and scared. At the same time it is a healthy scared.”

Angel House clinical director Christina Russell said that yoga has been “tremendously helpful” to clients who use it as a part of the shelter’s holistic approach to recovery – each mother at the shelter has battled substance abuse issues in their lives.

And it has allowed Angel House clients the opportunity to participate in an activity together, something that is difficult given the facility’s relatively small space. In nicer weather classes have been held outside while the Cape and Islands chapter of the American Red Cross has offered up its space for indoor sessions.

The sessions are catered to the types of clients Angel House treats. “We’ve developed a trauma-sensitive curriculum based on the training we’ve had,” Hoeck said. “So we’re creating a safe and empowering environment no matter what one’s experience in life has been.”

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Hoeck, who worked at HAC for nearly seven years, used her time here as inspiration for forming Yoga Neighborhood in order to benefit those who need it the most. “Seeing people cross that threshold at HAC, certainly with housing issues and hearing about their physical and mental health issues and seeing the stress they were under, it was clear yoga could be a wonderful tool to help reduce that stress and improve the quality of their lives,” she said.

Since 2010 when she left HAC, Hoeck has been using Yoga Neighborhood as a mechanism for introducing the discipline to people who otherwise would not be exposed to it.

Her experience has shown it to be an effective means to improve one’s life in small and large ways. And that has been the case at Angel House, where one client has expressed interest in becoming a yoga instructor.

“I taught the very first class and since then I’ve seen an incredible difference in the women, particularly in their interest in yoga,” Hoeck said. “They tell me it is helping them relax. Particularly at night when they are trying to wind down they go back to some of the yoga – breathing exercises, in particular, we teach in those classes and they are using that for self-regulation and self-calming.”

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Internship Experience at HAC Reinforces Career Aspirations

 

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Though Rebecca Brigham is only in her junior year at the University of Massachusetts, she already knows she wants to work with children once she graduates.

“That is where I am aiming,” Brigham said while inside the play space at Angel House at the end of August, two days before she returned to college.

Brigham’s first real practical experience working with children occurred in this same spot at the Hyannis shelter where she was an intern this summer. There she was supervised by her aunt, Amy Brigham, the assistant teacher at Angel House.

“I wanted to see the clinical side of this,” Rebecca said. “And I love kids too so that helped.”

So once a week starting in June, Rebecca would visit the play space, holding, feeding and caring for children as young as a few weeks old, some of whom were born addicted to drugs.

Rebecca has witnessed firsthand, and played a significant role, in the development of these children in their formative years. “It has been an amazing program, just the way every kid is given their own personal regiment,” Rebecca said. “They kind of cater this to each kid and their specific needs.”

While she has enjoyed working with each child, Rebecca admitted she grew attached to one who, not unlike other children at Angel House, initially, “couldn’t hold her head up, couldn’t crawl, was very quiet and kept to herself. Now she is crawling, developing and has this great personality which is an amazing thing to see.”

Interns like Rebecca are not unusual at HAC. In fact one of Rebecca’s childhood friends she grew up with in Barnstable, Allison Rolfe, also spent the summer as an intern at Angel House.

Beyond simply assisting staff in their duties, Amy said that interns are a valuable component at Angel House, allowing children who have suffered early trauma to be exposed to new caregivers. “Having new people come in here helps them to understand what life is all about,” Amy said. “Yes, there is a routine, but it’s not static and things do change.”

The internship program, Amy said, also allows Angel House staff to improve upon their own skills as they teach what they have learned to students who may one day find themselves in a similar work environment after college.

State Backing Bolsters NOAH Day Center

 
Cropped Gornstein resized 600Aaron Gornstein addresses the crowd.

In July – the same week that the 22nd Annual Bob Murray Housing with Love Walk was being held – the state threw its support behind the day center at NOAH and the timing could not have been more perfect.

In front of nearly 75 onlookers, including more than two dozen walkers, standing outside the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main Street, Aaron Gornstein, the Massachusetts undersecretary for housing and community development, announced $200,000 in state funding for the new initiative being undertaken by HAC in collaboration with, among others, the town of Barnstable, the Greater Hyannis Civic Association, the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District and Duffy Health Center.

“I knew Bob Murray very well over my career,” Gornstein told those in attendance. “I know he would want us to fund this program.”

That program, opening the NOAH Shelter to the homeless during the day, began in May though the planning process began long before that. And Gornstein, who witnessed firsthand the preparation involved in opening the day center, marveled at the cooperation among the organizations involved. “It is unprecedented,” he said. “I have never seen this kind of collaboration across all the different interests come together around an important issue of homelessness in this town. And I was so impressed that we had to find a way to come up with the funding to get this program going.”

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Along with the $200,000 for the day center, Gornstein also informed the public that the NOAH Shelter will also see a boost in its overall funding as part of a commitment by the state to increase its support to individual homeless shelters throughout the Commonwealth.

The good news for the day center did not end there as Bert Talerman, an executive vice president for Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, handed HAC CEO Rick Presbrey a check for $10,000 to support the new initiative.

“This is a great preliminary success story. This is really the preface to the real story,” Presbrey said. “A big part of this is accountability to demonstrate to the community what we want to do, what we are doing and what we have done as a collaboration. If that doesn’t happen none of this is worth it.”

 

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