On Cape Cod, sea shells have historically been used as decorative pieces, but the Harvest of Barnstable has taken that concept a step further by putting one of theirs to good use.
Starting on April 1, the Yarmouthport-based store is selling an angel, made entirely out of sea shells with a pink bow around the neck and a faux pearl in the center, with 50 percent of the proceeds from the piece going to benefit Housing Assistance Corporation’s Angel House shelter in Hyannis.
The sea shell angel is priced at $11.95 and can be used as an ornament for a Christmas tree or could be displayed the entire year on a window pane or a wall in any room of the house.
The angel also makes for a perfect Mother’s Day gift; the holiday falls on Sunday, May 11 which happens to be the same day the Harvest of Barnstable’s fundraiser ends.
In addition, five percent of all sales generated on Harvest of Barnstable’s website will benefit Angel House which provides temporary shelter to homeless women, who are recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, and their children.
Store owner Pamela Parker said she was compelled to participate in the fundraiser based upon the work done at Angel House and the need for these services on Cape Cod. “I am passionate about families because I was fortunate to grow up with a strong support system,” she said. “What you are doing is helping young mothers build that family structure and family unit. If you can build the mother back up and give shelter to her while she is going through crisis, both she and her children will benefit. And you are not just taking care of this one little problem, you are helping to prevent this from happening to their children in the future.”
Sometime within the past year someone sent me an email with one of those visually deceptive tests. The challenge was to count the number of times three people in white shirts passed a ball back and forth during the video. Making it difficult was that there were also three players in black shirts passing another ball.
Concentrating as hard as I could I counted 17 total throws. At the end of the video I waited to see how close I was when an unexpected question appeared on the screen: “Did you notice the gorilla?” “What gorilla?” I thought.
I was then prompted to watch the video again and amazingly noticed a person wearing a gorilla suit walking right through the middle of the six people throwing the balls. I had absolutely no awareness whatsoever!
It was a shocking example of what all of us may do every day. How often do we not accurately see what is happening right in front of us? As the saying goes: “Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable.”
More and more I realize that I can’t really do two things well at the same time. How often have I been busy talking to my companion while driving and missed a turn? Why when I am nearing a destination, not knowing the exact route, do I turn off the radio? Why do I hit the mute button on the remote control when my wife is talking to me? Do you notice things when you are not looking for them? After you have lunch with someone can you remember the color of the clothes they were wearing?
My larger point is, are you always sure of the accuracy of what you believe? As we all heard in elementary school and high school, “check your work.” It always pays to take a careful look, get the other side of the story, and confirm what you thought you saw or heard.
Do you have an image in your mind of what the typical homeless person looks like?
Since 1999 Gerald “Curly” Carey has run 27 marathons, but there was only one he did not finish – last year’s Boston Marathon.
The marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt for the suspects were well documented in the news, capturing the nation’s attention in the days and weeks that followed. And for many runners, like South Dennis’ Carey, it represented a difficult time. “I would say the first week afterward was very emotional watching TV and knowing that five years prior I would have been coming in at the time the bombs went off,” he said. “It was very emotional and it still is.”
He anticipated this year’s Boston Marathon – his 14th time running it – will carry similar weight. “It will be an emotional race for me, especially the last mile and a half because I didn’t get to finish last year,” he said.
Instead, like the thousands of other race participants who had not yet crossed the finish line, Carey found himself searching for loved ones – his wife Kelly was planning on watching him finish – as helicopters flew overhead and the sounds of fire and police sirens could be heard racing towards the crime scene.
He estimates he has helped raise close to $50,000 for the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council’s (DYECH) Project Prevention since 2001 when he was inspired to somehow give back in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A conversation with David Akin, a deacon at St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth and a member of DYECH, convinced him to focus his efforts locally. “He told me we have a big problem on Cape Cod,” he said, in reference to the region’s homeless population.
Though he has run dozens of other races, Carey holds a special place in his heart for the Boston event, listing a litany of reasons from its history to its stature as a worldwide event to the difficulty of the course itself. The race also serves as a fundraiser to a cause important to Carey: fighting homelessness on Cape Cod.
Carey’s money has gone towards Project Prevention which HAC oversees and which ensures Cape Codders struggling with their bills will never find themselves on the street. “Last year I was able to raise $2,044 and through that effort at least three families were able to stay in their homes and avoid being homeless,” Carey wrote in his fundraising letter for this year’s marathon.
He expressed pleasure in being in a position to help those who are less fortunate. “When I find out where the money is going and that it keeps people in their homes it makes me proud,” he said.
Along with running marathons, Carey serves monthly meals to the homeless as a member of the Yarmouth Rotary, an experience he has found rewarding. “I have a beautiful house in South Dennis. I have a good life,” he said. “One of the things my parents taught me is you have to give back. That is what keeps me going.”
It was his mother Mary, who passed away in 1997, who he dedicated his first Boston Marathon to in 1999. To this day the 57-year-old Carey honors her spirit every time he runs the historic race which will take on special meaning this month because of the lives that were lost and those that were injured last year. “If I had to run it on crutches I would do it,” he said. “It really means a lot to me.”
Help Curly reach his goal! Send a tax-deductible donation to "Run to Prevent Homelessness," c/o Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council, P.O. BOX 507, Yarmouthport, MA 02675
Sit down with Tracey Dalton for even a minute and you will encounter someone who is largely positive, and considers herself blessed. “I’ve never been happier in my entire life,” she says honestly.
But it was not always this way. Less than a decade ago Dalton was lost, emotionally, physically and spiritually. For a seven-year period Dalton bounced around Atlanta, Miami, Maine and Cape Cod, a woman without a home or a purpose.
Her bed was wherever she could lay her head. On some nights it was in her Ford pick up truck. On other nights it was in an abandoned warehouse in less than ideal neighborhoods. Then there were the nights when she would sleep on the back porches of homes owned by complete strangers.
Alcohol and drugs were common, partially the result of two major car accidents that left her with a brain injury.
Her plight became so bad that she was losing that which meant the most in her life – her children, twins Heather and Sara Read, 32, of Miami, and Jessica Read-Feeley, 31, of Yarmouth. “I really just had the clothes on my back,” she said.
From that abyss, Dalton was able to find herself. Hers is a story of redemption, one that happened here on Cape Cod, where she moved to be closer to her youngest child. Dalton credits a number of organizations that starts with Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) and includes Cape Cod Hospital and Duffy Health Center, among others, for providing a light at the end of what had been a dark tunnel.
None of this was easy. In fact, Dalton admits, the most difficult moment of her life was the day she walked into NOAH, HAC’s homeless shelter in Hyannis. It was the first time she had ever entered a homeless shelter during her seven years of homelessness.
“It was the most horrific and terrifying and traumatic decision I have ever had to make,” she said.
This type of reaction is one that Greg Bar sees frequently in his capacity as the shelter manager. “Nobody wants to be there,” he said.
Finding Comfort at NOAH
Despite that initial hesitation Dalton grew to find comfort at NOAH, through its staff and Bar’s guiding hand.
“It is a non-judgmental zone,” she said, emphasizing the importance of having this type of atmosphere in what can be a stigmatizing environment. “They were compassionate to people and loving, and it really made me feel better.”
And she returned that positivity to those she took shelter with at NOAH. “I’d walk in there and the first thing I’d say is, ‘It’s all about the love!’ and they would start laughing,” she said.
Dancing to music – Sister Sledge and the Pointer Sisters were favorites – and watching movies became ways for Dalton to bond with those at NOAH who all shared similar experiences of life on the streets. And it created a sense of home when she had long been without one.
“Tracey always had a brightness about her,” Bar said. “She was bright intellectually, but she also had a bright disposition and she was eager to improve her situation.”
And eventually she did, landing a rental apartment in Orleans through that town’s housing authority after spending several months at NOAH and navigating the mountain of paperwork that comes with subsidized housing.
“It looks like something out of the Bahamas,” Dalton says of her apartment which has given her not only security, but hope. This is her piece of paradise, here on Cape Cod.
Today she has turned her life around to the point she is helping others. She volunteers with the Eastham and Orleans councils on aging, the Wounded Warrior Project and she maintains her sobriety by attending regular AA sessions.
Most importantly, she has reconnected with her three daughters, and is the proud grandmother to four healthy and happy grandchildren.
Dalton shared her story of success with HAC staff and supporters at its annual meeting earlier this month as proof that no matter what the circumstance “you can rebuild your life,” she said. “Now I have a new soul.”
She is just one example of many, Bar said, that homelessness is not permanent, noting that when he previously served as a housing search specialist in HAC’s Individual Services Department he would help find homes for at least 10 people a month who had been in similar situations to Dalton. “We hope that everybody comes to that point and we do what we can to get to that point. When somebody has lost hope you ask, ‘How do you help them find hope again?’” he said. “It is a question we are always trying to find the answer to.”
HAC’s annual meeting could be summed up in one word – celebration.
In fact, that is exactly how the evening’s festivities kicked off: with a celebratory video in which HAC staffers, a few volunteers and some clients, danced and lip synced to Kool & The Gang’s “Celebration,” to the delight of the more than 350 in attendance at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis.
Rick Presbrey, CEO of HAC, jokingly assured the crowd the video is not indicative of what really goes on at HAC under his watch. “Whenever I’m away you get the kind of scene you got there and I was away last week and I do know what the staff was doing,” he said to laughter. “I saw little shreds of confetti and stuff on the floor, and I knew there’d been trouble.”
Presbrey used the video to highlight the positive culture that pervades the non-profit. “We have low turnover at the agency. We really do and I think there are some pretty good reasons why and that [video] is one of them: people are having a good time,” he said.
The positive nature of the event, which was sponsored by Shepley Wood Products of Hyannis, was a theme throughout the night, something that WXTK radio personality and the night’s host Matt Pitta alluded to in his opening remarks: “We are here tonight to celebrate your 40 years of making lives better for people and families here on Cape Cod,” he said.
Presbrey, one of the founders of HAC, credited his staff for helping the non-profit reach this milestone, noting they “really believe in the mission and really work uniformly towards the same goal like a team,” calling that aspect of his work over the past four decades immensely satisfying.
HAC took time to honor several individuals, groups and organizations that have helped it achieve that mission over the past year.
Among those were the 807 volunteers who donated 12,685 hours in 2013, prompting HAC’s Mary Everett-Patriquin to remark, “Right now I feel like the luckiest volunteer coordinator on the planet. You are such an inspiration.”
In exchange for those volunteer efforts, she said, HAC was taking $500 it had earmarked for the annual meeting and moving it into programs and services for its clients. “Five hundred dollars is a whole lot of good,” she said. “It is enough to keep a family from going into shelter and becoming homeless.”
Dennis Selectman Wayne Bergeron, his wife Janine and their children Rebecca and Michael were singled out for their philanthropy, receiving the Volunteers of the Year Award. The family has long been a fixture at HAC events, including the Housing with Love Walk, the Big Fix and the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon.
In accepting the award, Michael relayed a story from his childhood about the first time he helped his father deliver food to the homeless in Hyannis. The message he received that day was one he has not forgotten. “My father said, ‘Mike, no one plans on being homeless,’” he said. “We’ve been so blessed throughout our lives and the opportunity to give back is one of life’s true pleasures.”
The Town of Mashpee received this year’s Business/Organization Partner Award for its role in pulling off the biggest Big Fix to date, along with its support of Great Cove which will bring 10 rental units of affordable housing to the Upper Cape community this spring.
“What we try to do is go to towns that are enthusiastic about [the Big Fix],” Presbrey said. “Well, we had no idea how enthusiastic a town could be until we ran into the likes of Mashpee.”
Mashpee Assistant Town Manager Tom Mayo downplayed the efforts made by his fellow employees and residents. “It was such an important project and it never seemed like we were doing anything special because it was so important,” he said.
Last year’s recipient of the Presbrey Public Service Award, the Reverend Dr. John Terry of the Federated Church of Hyannis, presented that award to the Reverend Lawrence Brown of Hyannis, a humanities teacher at Cape Cod Academy in Osterville.
Mr. Brown was joined by two of his students, juniors Emily Brady and Katie Bailey, who have helped organize their school’s coffee houses and the Shelter from the Storm concert at Cape Cod Community College, both of which feature high school artists and which raise money for area charities including HAC’s NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, the Duffy Health Center and the region’s homeless veterans.
“This past year I was the student-manager and MC of one of the concerts and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Brady said. “I can’t believe the program that he created and how much it has helped people on Cape Cod. This year it raised over $10,000 and that will help fund a Stand Down this summer and allow us to give extra money to organizations such as the Interfaith Council [for the Homeless] and HAC.”
Mr. Brown followed up his students’ comments by pointing out the hope they represented. “I mentioned we’re getting older and the question is: who is going to do the work when we’re gone?” he said. “Who is going to care the way that you care and who is going to do the things that you do? The answer is – this is the good news – they will.”
Though the night was markedly positive there were several emotional moments, including a speech from one of HAC’s clients, Tracey Dalton of Orleans, who spent seven years homeless, but found hope and recovery through the NOAH Shelter.
And Cyndy Jones, joined by her husband Ken, had many in tears as she spoke about the creation of Heroes in Transition, a Mashpee-based non-profit formed after the loss of their son, US Marine Corps Captain Eric A. Jones, in 2009 in a helicopter collision while he was serving in Afghanistan.
“We’re here because four years, five months and 23 days ago we received a knock on the door,” Ms. Jones said. “From that time we have decided to honor our son.”
The couple has done so through Heroes in Transition which has helped raise over $500,000 since 2010 that goes to support veterans, whether it be through providing therapy dogs, modifying homes, offering transitional support group therapy or financial support.
Last year Heroes in Transition helped fund improvements to several homes owned by Mashpee veterans as part of HAC’s Big Fix, and helped keep Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korean War veterans, all of whom have fallen on hard times, in their homes on Cape Cod. The non-profit was the recipient of this year's Human Services Partner Award.
“It’s been an absolutely wonderful marriage with Heroes in Transition and HAC,” Ms. Jones said. “We’ve just loved working with HAC because of all the organizations and collaborations we’ve done with other groups, HAC is really the closest to my heart.”
HAC's 40th Annual Meeting was billed as a celebration and thanks to this music video which kicked off the night it turned into one.
Filmed and edited by Ivan Ramabhadjan, director of operations for Cape Cod Community Media Center, the video features HAC staff, clients and volunteers, and was shot as a surprise to our non-profit's founder and CEO Rick Presbrey.
Presbrey was so surprised by the video that he admittedly had a difficult time focusing on it that evening. "It wasn't until I watched it over again that I saw how entertaining it was and how much hard work and effort went ino it," he said. "I really appreciated it and it was terrific, high quality, inspiring and fun."
The dream of creating affordable housing has become a reality for the Mashpee Housing Authority. Since October of 2011 when Gov. Patrick announced that HAC would receive the funding needed to build additional units at the Breezy Acres family public housing development, it has been full steam ahead. “We’re really excited to build this community for Mashpee Housing Authority and the Town of Mashpee. It has been a wonderful and collaborative effort,” said Adrienne Danner project manager in HAC’s Housing Development Department.
HAC worked with the housing authority to develop ten new townhome rental units consisting of eight 2-bedrooms and two 3-bedrooms. The townhomes are designed to easily integrate with six existing units, creating a sense of community with communal outdoor spaces. The environmentally friendly design leaves a large portion of the site undisturbed to provide as much open space as possible.
“We are very pleased to be serving, once again, as the Project Architects for HAC on such an important community-housing development as Great Cove. With each new project, we look to contribute towards the overall HAC mission of designing and building attractive, energy-efficient, and well-built housing that is truly affordable to local Cape Cod residents,” said Rick Fenuccio, president of Brown Lindquist Fenuccio & Raber Architects Inc.
All units will be affordable for families earning 50 percent or less of the area median income, and eight project based voucher units will be reserved for extremely low-income households (30 percent of area median income or less).
Residents are expected to move in the beginning of May. HAC will conduct a housing lottery for all units. Visit HAC’s website if you would like to learn more about affordable housing lotteries.
A celebratory ribbon cutting will take place on Thursday, April 17 at 10 a.m. on Breezy Way off Old Barnstable Rd., Mashpee.
Sometimes giving comes from unlikely places. This story traces mismatched socks from North Carolina to Vermont to the NOAH Shelter.
The socks, by a company called Sol Mate Socks, are made of multi-colored cotton, and they purposefully don’t match. The company’s motto is “Life’s too short for matching socks.” Housing Assistance Corporation recently received a donation of socks to be given to homeless clients.
It all started with Donna Thomas of Sandwich, who co-owns the gift shop Snow Goose Shops, which is located on the corner of Tupper Road and Route 6A in Sandwich Village. The shop was started by her father, David Hadley, who still co-owns it.
Donna first found out about the work of Housing Assistance Corporation around 2007 through selling special Christmas cards designed by Marieluise Hutchinson for DYECH to benefit HAC’s Project Prevention program.
After learning about HAC, and in particiular, NOAH, Donna organized clothing drives for homeless people who stay there. She sends out an email to friends and customers requesting donations of gently used clothing, socks, blankets and towels. She recalls one time when she was dropping off items at NOAH and some of the homeless clients came out to thank her. “It’s humbling,” she said.
When asked her reason for donating to NOAH, she said, simply, “There but for the grace of God, I’m not on the streets. So many people are one paycheck away from it.”
One product that Donna sells at her stores are the colorful mismatched socks from Sol Mate Socks, an environmentally-friendly family-owned company with offices in South Stratford, Vermont and Portland, Oregon. Donna said she discovered the socks at a wholesale trade show 10 years ago and has been selling them ever since. “One of the biggest draws for me besides being mismatched and made of cotton is that they are made in the USA,” she said.
Donna found out that the company periodically donates its “seconds” socks to homeless shelters, so she contacted HAC staff and put them in touch with Sol Mate. As a result, Sol Mate generously donated $700 worth of socks to HAC to be given to clients at NOAH, as well as Angel House, Village at Cataumet, and Carriage House.
Randy Wakerlin, co-owner of Sol Mate Socks with his mother, Marianne Wakerlin, said his company likes to donate to charities, in particular homeless shelters and children’s charities.
“We feel like our socks are bright and colorful and they’re a very happy product and we feel we want to share that with folks who might need a little cheer in their lives,” he said.
The socks, made out of recycled cotton, are thick and very durable. “They make a nice year-round sock,” he said.
The company also makes mittens, hats and scarfs, which they also donate when they have overages.
The company has two distribution centers, Portland, Oregon and Stratford,Vermont. All the socks are knitted in North Carolina, and the hats are made in North Carolina and Vermont. The mittens are made in Oregon.
Besides going to people who could use the socks, the donations also help the company maintain its zero waste policy. As much as possible they try to keep any waste out of landfills, Randy said.
2014 is HAC’s 40th year in business! I have been here the whole time.
The undocumentable number of people we have helped now is 160,000! Even with the undeniable duplication contained in that number we must have helped at least 50,000. That is a lot.
I still love coming to work almost every day. When I wake up and don’t feel like getting up and going to work, I feel great once I get here. I’ve thought a lot about why that is true and what is special about HAC.
When I say what I am about to say I am not bragging I am just recognizing the obvious truth: the founder of an organization has a major effect on the culture of that organization and that same is true here. I am pro client and get almost all of my satisfaction from seeing people helped. That does not mean that I am anti-anybody because I like to solve problems faced by landlords, towns, our staff and others as well. It also doesn’t mean that I will never give up on someone. I do and I will when that person won’t follow up on doing what they can for themselves.
We all see things differently. I tend-to a fault-to see the good in people. I like almost everyone. I absolutely love the staff at HAC and I like the people who I talk to in our waiting room. But liking someone and seeking to help them and seeking to achieve fairness and justice for them are not always the same thing.
I want people coming in to our waiting room or calling on the phone to feel welcome and cared about. Why? Because they are good people who are struggling to get their lives in order. Just as you and I are struggling to get ours in order, so are they but their job is almost always more difficult than ours. I have seen so many people get their lives in order in ways that I could never have done. My parents were married 50 years, I have four years of high school, four years of college and a graduate degree and have never been unemployed for even five minutes. I have never lived with an alcoholic or an abuser. How lucky am I? Pretty lucky. People have been nice to me even when I didn’t deserve to be treated well.
I will be leaving HAC within the next few years. What do I want my legacy to be? First, I want the agency to do more and to do it even better after I leave. But I want my legacy to be excellent treatment of our clients and our community. The way I recently started looking at it is that:
Beauty equals justice.
Seeing the beauty and value in everyone is a motivator for all of us to seek fairness and justice for all.
Donate to help HAC build a community where everyone has a safe, stable and decent place to live.
This year HAC celebrates a milestone, 40 years of good work. “The program will be more celebratory this year,” says HAC’s Director of Development and Communications Julie Wake. “Expect the unexpected for an annual meeting!” Matt Pitta from WXTK will host the event.
Among those being honored will be Rev. Larry Brown of Cape Cod Academy, along with his student team from People to People International, who will be given the Presbrey Public Service Award in recognition of their service to those in need on Cape Cod. The Presbrey award is given to people in the community who most exemplify the qualities and values that motivate Rick. Recent recipients include Rabbi Elias Lieberman, Dr. Kathleen Schatzberg and Rev. Dr. John Terry.
This year’s recipient of the Business/Organization Partner Award is the Town of Mashpee, who went beyond the call of duty in pulling off the biggest Big Fix event as well as adding 10 units of affordable rentals with a new development, Great Cove.
Heroes in Transition will receive the Human Services Partner Award in recognition of their support of HAC’s Project Prevention for veterans. Heroes also played a supporting role in the Big Fix Mashpee helping to improve several veterans’ homes.
The Volunteer of the Year award goes to the Bergeron Family for their years of hard work and dedication on homelessness issues. Wayne, Janine, their daughter Rebecca and their son Michael have played a major role in HAC’s annual event, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon.
Dinner will be served and a cash bar will be available. RSVP by March 24 by calling HAC or going online at www.HAConCapeCod.org.
This year’s annual meeting and volunteer recognition is sponsored by Shepley Wood Products, a Hyannis based company that received HAC’s Business Partner Award in 2012.
Tony Shepley speaking at last year’s annual meeting.