Great things happen when over 200 people come together to help their neighbors in need. It has happened every fall for five years as part of HAC’s annual Big Fix.
And it will happen once more on Saturday, October 3 when HAC and its army of volunteers descend upon Bourne to assist complete strangers by making minor home repairs that have become difficult for them to undertake.
“We’re certainly excited about it,” said Bourne Town Administrator Thomas Guerino. “The energy the Big Fix brings with volunteers helping folks who may fall through the cracks by bringing their housing to a livable situation is tremendous.”
The Big Fix is targeted at helping senior citizens, veterans and disabled residents, understanding that small home improvements can make a world of difference in the quality of their lives.
The day of service also can have a profound impact on those doing the actual work. “Volunteers come out for a half a day and when they’re done, they’ve made a real difference for a homeowner in need,” said HAC’s volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin. “Volunteers often say they’re grateful for an opportunity to give back because they remember a difficult time in their past when someone – sometimes a complete stranger – reached out to help them through it.”
Want to volunteer? Click this link or contact Mary Everett-Patriquin at volunteer@HAConCapeCod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 279 for more info! The deadline to submit an application is Friday, September 18.
When HAC first opened the Day Center at NOAH last May, it looked to Lonnie Daniels to assist the nonprofit as it began this new endeavor.
At the time, Daniels was hired as a part-time consultant to the day center, juggling the role with his post at Father Bill’s in Quincy, where he oversaw the day-to-day operations at that homeless shelter.
This past March, Daniels’ responsibilities shifted as HAC named him the first-ever activities director for the day center. In this part-time role, consisting of roughly 20 hours a week, Daniels oversees programs for day center clients.
Though still new to the position, Daniels has invited representatives from both the Department of Transitional Assistance in Hyannis, and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission to NOAH where they have worked with those at the shelter.
Daniels views his primary role as bringing vital services to the homeless at a time when they need it most. “What this role does is provides services for them so they’re not just sitting around,” he said. “And it keeps them engaged.”
|HAC’s Darrell Thomas (middle right) talks to the volunteers that serve meals at the NOAH Shelter.
Whenever an individual comes to the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, they have experienced serious trauma.
It could be the result of mental illness, addiction, loss of a job, divorce or medical problems. So they look for small beacons of hope that will ultimately lift them out of the darkness. And that hope is what they receive every night when complete strangers, out of the goodness of their hearts, prepare dinner for upwards of 60 homeless men and women staying at the shelter.
“Just by being here and showing a little love is a huge thing,” shelter director Greg Bar told roughly three dozen such volunteers at the end of February when he offered tips for those serving meals and introduced his colleague Darrell Thomas as the new kitchen manager for the shelter.
What these HAC volunteers provide for Cape Cod’s homeless population, Bar said, is a little normalcy when they need it most.
“What you all provide for us is immeasurable,” Thomas added, before acknowledging that he knows exactly what NOAH’s clients are experiencing. “We were in a situation
like them. My family had no place to stay. We got to HAC and they helped me and my family get back on our feet.”
Thomas, who was hired at HAC in the summer of 2010, has witnessed firsthand the positive impact meal volunteers can have on those who are homeless.
One has been dubbed the “soup lady,” providing two different types of soups to clients every week.
Bar encouraged them to go beyond just serving a meal. “If you want to give them words of encouragement, do it. If you want to pray with them, do it,” he said. “Any investment that builds these people up is a good thing.”
“It just makes you feel good,” said Beth Heiden, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville, who has been preparing meals at NOAH for roughly two years.
“We could be on the other side,” said Francoise Rocher, also of Our Lady of Victory Parish. She first served a meal at the shelter about seven years ago. As to why she has continually come back, she explained it this way: “Coming here reassures me that there are people in the world who are concerned and care.”
It has been a tough summer. With unbelievably bad publicity and futile efforts to resolve the bizarre issues we are left only with the ability to stay positive and keep working to carry out our mission.
I am a social person who loves talking to people. Last week I was getting in to my car at the Marston’s Mills Post Office and one of our donors, who I know well, pulled into the next parking spot. I hoped she wouldn’t see me. I left. Yesterday we received an unsolicited donation from her with a very nice note of support.
Being under constant attack for the existence of the NOAH Shelter, and for an ill-timed comment I made to a staff person in May, which I have gotten in trouble for, has made me think hard about what we are doing and what we believe at HAC. After being up very late last night talking to my wife about it I realized that we can’t slow down what we are doing and or stop believing in what we stand for. We can’t be afraid. We are so often the last defense and last hope for those in need.
I deeply believe we are all equal as human beings. But we don’t all get the same breaks or advantages in life. We see people all day every day who don’t believe in themselves because they have been told all their lives that they are worthless. I know it is impossible to help everyone and it is unrealistic to expect that we will be able to put in enough time and effort to make all the difference needed, but we can try.
The cover story in HACbeat is just such an example. And what you don’t know is that the staff person who did the great work with this family is someone who needed a second chance herself and we gave it to her and she responded. My hat is off to her.
Last week another donor contacted me and said she wanted to give HAC a “large” gift in my name that would be a message to others, and would help others restore their faith in me and HAC by her example. I have gotten lots of cards and letters as well and been contacted by many that I haven’t seen or heard from in years.
Last night, at a play, a man who I didn’t know came up to me at intermission and thanked me for the work I do and HAC does and wished me well.
In order to have HAC continue its great work, and even improve upon it, we have to have faith in the goodness of humankind. I have lost some of that faith this summer, but the examples I have written about here are bringing it back.
|Terry Duenas (left) with HAC’s Deanna Bussiere and her husband David at Cape Cod Community Media Center’s Annual Meeting.
Inside the relatively dark studio at the Cape Cod Community Media Center, the spotlight shone brightly on HAC’s own Deanna Bussiere at the end of June.
The media center is a familiar place for Bussiere, who helps organize HAC’s shelter telethon which is held there every December. And because of her work on the telethon, the media center honored Bussiere with the Barbara Bird Community Impact Award. The award is named after a longtime producer at the media center whose outside activities included volunteering at HAC’s NOAH Shelter in Hyannis.
“The recipient of this year’s award is a really special person,” Terry Duenas, executive director of the media center, said in recognizing Bussiere’s accomplishments.
While he acknowledged HAC’s team that helps to put on the telethon, Duenas singled out Bussiere at the media center’s annual meeting: “They have one person who is
absolutely a stand out because I think they give her the jobs that no one else will do and she gets them done.”
Duenas went even further in an e-mail to Bussiere, who first started working at HAC in 2001, letting her know she had been chosen for the award. “Your amazing behind the scenes work for years with the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon and many other outreach projects make you a great candidate for this award,” he wrote. “You are a consummate team player who wants no personal credit, but is always a supportive and dedicated member of the Housing Assistance Corporation staff.”
Along with the award, which hangs proudly in Bussiere’s office, she was given a bouquet of flowers from her coworkers. Elias Benaka, whose mother Margaret works in the same department as Bussiere, presented her with the gift.
|Nathan Nickerson (from left) and Susan Buckley of Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar celebrate their win with Kenny Mansbach and Ron Winner of Shepley Wood Products who took home top honors in the amateur category.
There is an adage that procrastination is the enemy of success, but that concept was flipped on its head when Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar came away with the top prize at HAC’s inaugural Cape Cod Quahog Challenge.
The popular Eastham clam shack was the last entrant, signing up less than a week before the challenge where they joined seven other area restaurants competing for bragging rights to determine who makes the best stuffed quahog on Cape Cod. Apparently, that was more than enough time for the restaurant’s chef Susan Buckley to prepare her entry – aptly named Susie’s Stuffies - which attendees voted as their favorite on the first Sunday in August.
“We have a great product, but so do the other restaurants here… It’s really not about whether you win or lose, although it doesn’t hurt to win,” said Arnold’s owner Nathan Nickerson before he talked about the underlying importance of the event. “It is wonderful the programs that HAC has that help people get into housing. They do a great job and it is a great organization.”
“It is always important to give back to the community,” added John Shea, owner of Trader Ed’s in Hyannis, which not only hosted the event, but competed in it.
The setting overlooking Hyannis Harbor on a sunny summer day was ideal for the public to sample stuffed quahogs made by some of the top chefs on Cape Cod. The event was made even more festive with live music provided by Four Guys Cape Cod and appearances by Santa Claus, Cape Cod Country’s lobster mascot, Doug the Quahog, and radio personality Ralphie Marino.
Over $10,000 was raised from ticket sales, a silent auction, 50/50 raffle and sales of T-shirts that will go to support HAC’s housing programs on Cape Cod and the Islands.
HAC’s event coordinator Deanna Bussiere conceived of the idea with HAC’s director of communications and development Julie Wake and volunteer Ron Winner of Shepley Wood Products – he entered the competition with his coworker Kenny Mansbach, winning the amateur title – earlier this year after the three had seved a meal at the NOAH Shelter. “It was a wonderful way to celebrate a regional cuisine, highlight the great restaurants and chefs on Cape Cod and use it all as a means to give back to the community,” said Bussiere.
There are many ways to celebrate a birthday, but living at a campground with three children is probably not the way 30-year-old Amanda* envisioned the transition to 31 would occur.
But just a few weeks before her 31st birthday, that is exactly where she found herself – homeless, living in a tent with four sleeping bags, one each for her and her children Joseph, 9, Connor, 6, and Beth, 3.
With no vehicle, the family spent the better part of May, June and July relying on the kindness of strangers and the support of HAC to receive the essentials they needed – food and clothing – to survive the outdoors. During one significant storm, HAC was able to temporarily transition them into a local motel for two nights before they returned to the campground.
While many situations involving the Cape’s homeless population handled by HAC are difficult, family housing services department administrative assistant Monica Mitchell was particularly struck by the troubling nature of this one. “This was an extreme situation where they didn’t have anything except the clothes on their back,” Mitchell said.
“It’s been a struggle,” Amanda admitted, sitting on one of five folding chairs situated around a fire pit on a warm, sunny day during the second week of June.
About 20 feet away, on a picnic table covered with a plastic tablecloth sat much of the family’s belongings. There was a plastic bin full of small toys – dinosaurs, rubber balls, action figures and children’s books, all donated by strangers – to keep her kids entertained.
A small cooler was used to keep perishables cold with more important food kept inside the tent so that animals, like the raccoon that visited the night before, would not take what little they had. Food was cooked on either a small portable propane stove or over the fire pit.
“I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible,” Amanda said, when asked what she makes. That meant lots of hot dogs, fresh fruit, vegetables and granola bars.
Trips to the nearby restrooms or showers required bringing the entire family to ensure everyone was safe.
For adventurers seeking a weekend getaway, there is a romantic notion to living like this. But when it is about survival, it is a much different story.
There is a sadness to their situation which Amanda never acknowledged. Her focus, since becoming homeless in April when she left her husband and their religious community, was protecting her children in hopes they will soon have a better, more stable life.
To that end, HAC staff, along with TEAM M25, have provided the family with everything they need until they are eventually placed into an affordable apartment using HomeBase funds from the state that are intended for extreme cases like this.
These are the small steps called progress, better than having to call a tent your home.
Being homeless is difficult enough and has only been compounded for this family by several factors: according to HAC staff, Amanda appeared to have been mentally abused; they had no belongings; and the children, due to their religion, had never been vaccinated.
Through it all, Amanda has maintained a positive, upbeat attitude, displaying a courage that has impressed Mitchell who has been in contact with her on an almost daily basis this summer. “She has given me an unbelievable amount of strength watching her,” Mitchell said. “She is always calm, always focused. She knows this is a tiny blip and that this too shall pass.”
And it will when the family eventually moves into a three-bedroom apartment on Cape Cod, representing a stability that Amanda and her three children have been seeking for months. “Most of our lives, our whole family has been cramped into one room,” Amanda said. “This will feel like we’ve won the lottery, living in a three-bedroom house.”
She makes the statement as her oldest son, puts the finishing touches on homemade sassafras tea, and her other son rollerblades around the camp site. Her daughter, meanwhile, is taking a nap in the tent that provided them with safety for several weeks in the late spring and summer of 2015 when they had nowhere else to go.
They look as normal as you or I, only they are homeless.
*NOTE: The names of the client in this story have been changed.
Housing Assistance Corporation (HAC) will be holding a free Utility Assistance Workshop on Tuesday, August 4, from 1 to 3 pm, at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis.
This workshop will benefit those who may be behind on their electric bills, have an old bill they can not pay off or need assistance in setting up payment arrangements. Income-eligible residents may qualify for a discounted rate through their utility provider.
A representative from Eversource will be in attendance to assist residents with their bills. For additional details call Liz Belcher at 508-771-5400, ext. 210 or click on the image below.
|HAC's Deanna Bussiere chats with illustrator John Sullivan who created the logo for The Cape Cod Quahog Challenge.
When it comes to food, perhaps no dish is as synonymous with Cape Cod as the stuffed quahog.
And that appetizer will be the centerpiece of a summer showdown in Hyannis, The Cape Cod Quahog Challenge, to help raise funds for HAC’s housing programs.
The event is the brainchild of Julie Wake, HAC’s director of communications and development, and will pit the top restaurants in the region to find out who makes the best stuffed quahog.
Scheduled for Sunday, August 2, from 1 to 4 pm, at Trader Ed’s, the challenge is intended to be a fun-filled day, complete with live music from Four Guys Cape Cod, that epitomizes what summer is all about.
To add some color to the event, Wake tapped local illustrator John Sullivan to create the logo featuring Cape Cod’s unofficial mascot Doug the Quahog.
The former teacher and head of the drama club at Barnstable High School, Sullivan has long had a passion for art. “When I was a small child, I would always be drawing,” he said.
That passion led him to Massachusetts College of Art and Design where he received his bachelor’s degree in illustration and filmmaking. After graduating from there in 1974, he returned to Mass Art to get his master’s in education, later parlaying that degree to his 34 years of teaching at Barnstable.
During his time there, his drama club students actively took part in HAC’s Cape Walk to End Homelessness, an event no longer held, so Sullivan is quite familiar with the agency’s work. “I can’t think of a more worthy organization on Cape Cod right now because family is home and home is family,” he said. “If you don’t have a home, you can’t keep your family together.”
Because he identifies with the mission of HAC, Sullivan was more than eager to accept Wake’s invitation to lend his talents to the quahog challenge. And it was more than a fitting assignment for Sullivan who, along with former student Andrew Rapo, has created the Boston/New England Emmy-nominated children’s show, "Quahog Corner."
Sullivan also crafted the lobster mascot for Cape Country (103.9) which is owned by Cape Cod Broadcasting, the media sponsor for the quahog challenge.
Though officially retired, Sullivan enjoys these types of assignments that let him express his creativity. “It just makes me smile when I’m drawing,” he said.
|Dental hygienist Emma Lawson inside the family room at The Village at Cataumet.
Living in a homeless shelter can be overwhelming, often forcing one to overlook the minor and major aspects of life while concentrating on the necessity of finding permanent housing.
This is why dental hygienist Emma Lawson of Scituate, has made it a priority to bring her expertise to shelters like The Village at Cataumet so clients do not neglect something as important as the health of their teeth. “They have so much on their plate right now they are trying to deal with,” Lawson said in March, when she made her third trip to the shelter since last fall “They are looking for jobs and trying to make ends meet. By bringing this service to them, they won’t have to take time off of work to go to the dentist.”
Lawson, who has over 25 years of experience working in private practice, expanded her base of knowledge about a year and a half ago when she became a public health dental hygienist.
It was at that same time she started her own company, Visiting Dental Hygiene Associates, allowing her the freedom to ply her trade two days a week at off-site locations which range from senior centers to homeless shelters that include Carolina Hill in Marshfield, Pilgrims Hope in Kingston as well as HAC’s Carriage House in North Falmouth, and The Village at Cataumet.
Because it is a mobile operation, Lawson has to bring her own portable dental chair, compressor and the various tools of her craft – picks, mirrors and eye magnifiers – that allow her to provide shelter clients with a dental cleaning that includes fluoride treatment, an oral cancer exam and periodontal screening.
In March, she was scheduled to meet with seven HAC clients, starting with Ashley Lewis who admittedly, “has not had very good experience with dentists” in the past.
Still, she expressed gratitude that Lawson was there.“This is awesome of her to do this,” Lewis said.
Lawson views her role not only as a hygienist, but as an educator. For example, with patients who may be pregnant, she said, “they may be unaware of the relationship between having gum disease causing preterm labor.”
She works with parents, showing them how to brush and care for their children’s teeth, providing them helpful tips like this: “children up to the age of four should not be given regular toothpaste,” she said, explaining that it can lead to permanent discoloration on their adult teeth.
While Lawson receives payment through each client’s dental insurance, there have been times when some have not had any medical coverage. Lawson has treated them anyway, understanding that this type of service is vital to their health.
“It is a lot of work, but I find it very rewarding,” she said. “The patients I see are so appreciative of the service I have given them. I walk away feeling like I have made a difference. It is a rewarding feeling at the end of the day.”