|Scott and Lynn Durante with their children Hailey (from left), Anthony, Charlotte, Elizabeth and Jeweleann in their Cotuit home.
How does one celebrate becoming a first-time homeowner?
After he and his wife closed on their new home in Cotuit - but before they moved in at the end of October - Scott Durante did so by sitting quietly on the front steps of that house, thinking about how his life was about to soon change for the better. “It was an amazing feeling to know a lot of our hard work was actually paying off,” he said.
A little more than a month later, as the holiday season began, Scott went shopping for a Christmas tree to put in that home. Of course, he purchased the biggest one he could find for his living room. “It was too dang big for the room,” he laughed. “But it was my first year as a homeowner so I decided we’ll have a huge tree. It was great, especially having them [our kids] wake up and be in their own home on Christmas. My oldest daughter is almost 16 and never had a home of her own until now.”
Until a few months ago, Scott, his wife Lynn and their five children Elizabeth, 15; Jeweleann, 13; Hailey, 11; Anthony, 7; and Charlotte, 2, had only rented homes in Centerville, never knowing the satisfaction and pride that comes with being a homeowner.
That changed two years ago when the Durantes were informed by their landlord that he was intending to sell their rental.
So the couple visited Gael Kelleher, HAC’s director of real estate, asking her for guidance. Kelleher suggested they may qualify for a USDA loan which helps low-income families become homeowners.
Since then Scott and Lynn took the requisite classes through HAC’s Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) to help rebuild their credit and prepare them for becoming first-time homebuyers.
“The thing that’s so good with them is they followed all the rules,” said Kelleher. “They took the class. They fixed their credit. They did everything a first-time homebuyer should do.”
HAC Provided Much-Needed Help
Scott, who works full-time as a tow truck driver, had similar praise for the work HAC did in helping his family which has gone through some difficult times over the years.
In 2007, the Durantes had to move out of their home and into his mother’s house in West Barnstable after he lost his job. “HAC has been great,” Scott said. “When we were down and out a couple of times, my wife called you. At one point we were referred to a shelter, but we didn’t take it.”
The family’s problems did not end there. Five years ago, he and his wife noticed their son was having physical difficulties – eye fluttering, pausing when he walked – so they took him to a neurologist. Anthony underwent an MRI, discovering that he had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in his brain, requiring surgery.
“It was very scary being told your son is going to have brain surgery to save his life,” Scott said.
Today, Anthony is a healthy vibrant boy though he requires therapy to address his physical and sensory needs. “He is very smart, but you have to kind of keep him engaged,” Scott said. To that end, the Durante’s home in Cotuit has been a blessing. A room with a hot tub has since been transformed into a recreational space for Anthony.
“It was good to get our own home so we could build a room for his needs,” Scott said.
The house, a small saltbox with three bedrooms, a finished basement and a wooded lot, has also been a much-needed gift for the entire family which includes pugs Bella and Brutus. Thanks to the home, the Durantes have been able to save more than $400 a month in their mortgage compared to what they paid in rent.
Perhaps the best part for the Durantes is the freedom they have since gained. “You don’t have to call the landlord and ask him what color paint is acceptable or if you can put up a shelf,” Scott said. “You don’t have to ask the landlord to replace the stove or refrigerator. We have the freedom to do whatever we want, to a point, and don’t have to answer to anybody else.”
|Falmouth's Betty Bailey (from left), Robert McIntire, Nancy Ledger and Tanya White at a meal they prepared and served at The Village at Cataumet in December.
Webster’s Dictionary may have its own definition of dedication, but at HAC it’s exemplified in volunteers like Dr. Robert McIntire of Falmouth.
Over the past decade, Dr. McIntire and several other members of the John Wesley United Methodist Church in Falmouth, have devoted one night every month to cooking meals for clients at The Village at Cataumet.
“It is nice to reach out and be able to meet these folks and hopefully bring a smile to their face,” said Nancy Ledger of Falmouth. “It means a lot to us and hopefully it means a lot to them.”
In December, Ledger joined Dr. McIntire, Tanya White and Betty Bailey, all of Falmouth, in making a meal of chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and apple crisp for shelter clients. Because it was the week before Christmas, the group also gave each client a small gift package that included candies and a Walmart gift card.
As Dr. McIntire handed out the packages, one client responded, “This is wonderful. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.”
Having a chance to meet and interact with those staying at the shelter, Dr. McIntire said, has been the most rewarding aspect of his time spent volunteering at HAC. While all are grateful for the help they are given, he said, “It is pretty tough for small families having to live in a small hotel room, especially when you have two adults and two children. It’s not a holiday.”
“It is difficult,” said Brianne Gonzalez, who has been at the shelter with one of her two children since the middle of October. “I would probably say living so close to other people is the most difficult thing. And having to share things; you normally would have your own kitchen.”
“I’d rather have my own place,” said Richelle Green, a client who lives with her boyfriend Perikles (Perry) Karakostas. The two will be having a baby boy, due in April.
As the couple enjoyed the December meal cooked by relative strangers, Perry praised the group’s generosity. “They are saints,” he said. “It is so good to see nice people with everything that is going on in the world.”
This meal represented one of the few gifts he would receive this season. “Being in the situation we are in, it is hard to focus on the holidays,” he admitted.
It is why, Ledger said, the best part of their volunteer work is when the shelter’s clients are finally able to have a place to call home. “It is always sad to see young families who are homeless. It is tragic, especially at this time of year,” she said. “That is why you are so happy when you come here and they are gone because they have gone on to their own place.”
| A sampling of the family portraits that Sandwich’s Beth Muhlebach shot and eventually gave to HAC’s shelter clients in December.
It is safe to say that for most clients, their time living in shelter is one they would like to forget. For it is here that they are at their lowest, looking for a way to rebuild their lives, move on and find a place to call their own.
But for one day in November, Sandwich’s Beth Muhlebach gave 14 families – five at Carriage House in North Falmouth and nine at The Village at Cataumet – a lasting keepsake to remember their time in shelter.
Muhlebach, who makes her living as a clinical research consultant, spends her spare time practicing photography. “I like capturing the interaction between people most,” she said. “And I like capturing the emotional moments in those interactions.”
Often those interactions involve her husband Stephan and their children Ella, 6, and Henry, 5.
Muhlebach expanded her list of subjects to include HAC clients after being introduced to the nonprofit through her friendship with Julie Wake, director of communications and development.
Last fall while the two were at Taste and See at Oyster Harbors Club, an event that raises money for HAC’s homeless programs, Muhlebach began thinking of a way to use her talents to give shelter clients a meaningful gift for the holidays. “I thought for a long time that people who are homeless, especially those with children, are not thinking about capturing this part of their lives,” she said. “They don’t want pictures to remember this time, but for these kids this is their childhood and it is as special as any others.”
So a month later, Muhlebach found herself spending nearly five hours capturing posed and more candid moments of families living in HAC’s shelters.
She arrived at The Village at Cataumet first where mothers were busy doing their hair, preparing for the shoot. “It was really neat to see that what they thought I was doing was as special as I thought it was,” she said. “They were appreciative and excited to have pictures taken of their kids and with them.”
The day was particularly significant for one of the mothers as it was the first time she had ever had a photo taken with her son. “It was sort of amazing to think there were no other pictures of them together,” Muhlebach said.
Over the course of the next three weeks, Muhlebach became even more familiar with the families as she pored through the photos she took, selecting her favorites and then going through the process of editing them.
In the second week of December, Muhlebach returned to Carriage House and The Village of Cataumet, giving each client a framed 8x10 photo, a framed 5x7 photo, several 4x6 prints as well as wallet-sized ones they could give to family members.
“The pictures came out beautiful,” said Marilia Freire, who had her photos taken with her one-year-old son Adrian at The Village at Cataumet. “I was so happy she did this because I wanted to do a Christmas picture with him. I really appreciate it.”
For Muhlebach, the reactions from clients were particularly rewarding. “A lot of them cried when they saw pictures of themselves with their children,” she said.
The best part was the bonds she witnessed - and captured on camera - between parents and their children in shelter. “When I told people I was going to the shelters, they said, ‘Oh that is going to be so sad,’” Muhlebach said. “It wasn’t sad at all. It was exactly the opposite of that. Because of HAC and these shelters, the kids have a place where they can live and be comfortable. It seems like a good environment for them to be in. They smile and are as happy as any other kids. You can see they are truly happy, genuinely sweet little kids and their parents love them and care for them a lot.”
|Beth Muhlebach with her children Ella and Henry.
The first snowstorm of 2015 was a significant one, dropping over two feet of snow on most parts of Cape Cod and shutting down schools, businesses, government and commerce for nearly two days.
While most people spent their time in the comfort of their own homes, the Cape’s homeless men and women did so wherever they could find safety. For 60 people that meant HAC’s NOAH Shelter which had a line of people waiting to get in the facility when it opened at noon on the Monday the first snowflakes started to fall. “We don’t see that usually,” shelter director Greg Bar said. “That just goes to show you whether you are rich or poor, storms get you panicky.”
In preparation for the blizzard, Bar stocked up on essentials – flashlights, first aid kits and food in the event dinners from donors did not make their way to the shelter. Blankets were stockpiled to make them accessible if the power went out. “We looked ahead to make sure we were one hundred percent self-sufficient,” he said.
With the shelter at capacity, he anticipated a small contingent would have to sleep in the foyer.
Anytime these types of extreme weather events hit the region, Bar said, it can create a mixture of tension and boredom in the shelter as cabin fever starts to set in. It is why Bar welcomed any sort of entertainment – a guest leading a group activity or discussion or a musician entertaining clients – in the future when a similar-sized storm starts to subside.
In what has been a stroke of good fortune, Bar said that the Cape’s homeless have been relatively lucky as “there have been no tragedies because of the weather. I hope that continues.”
Of course, that could always change. In advance of the January storm, there were a few homeless who were planning on remaining outside despite pleas from advocates like Bar and Dan McCullough, director of TEAM M25, a homeless outreach group on the Cape.
McCullough, who often works with the homeless who sleep in camps in the woods, said most were finding temporary shelter elsewhere, whether being put up at a local motel, couch surfing with a friend or at NOAH.
He knew of a small group that had planned to stay in the basement of an abandoned building near the Hyannis Airport. “We have done the best we can,” he said, noting that those who did stay outside were given extreme weather gear, from tents to sleeping bags to blankets to clothes, and understood the risks involved.
With 20 years of experience working with the homeless on Cape Cod, McCullough said he realizes that there are those who “have the capacity, intelligence and imagination to stay outside in weather like this. And they almost always survive if they can put up with the discomfort.”
Still, the preference for those like McCullough and Bar is that these homeless people accept help in storms like this. “There are alternatives for people,” Bar stressed.
In last month's editorial, I wrote about the detachment and confusion about returning to work after an almost two week absence over the holidays. I promised to write in this issue about a couple of things I’d like to get done this year. What follows are three somewhat-creative ideas (note that this is not a comprehensive to-do list):
First, I’d like to talk about marketing. HAC has a great director of marketing and fundraising, Julie Wake. But often Julie has to work with me on marketing issues and I am not inclined to talk about or brag about what we do which is probably not a good thing. I am also not a “process” person. By that I mean I just like to get things done.
Sometimes, though, a well-organized process is necessary to getting things accomplished.
Recently, a friend made me aware of a video that had been filmed at the Moses Brown School, a private prep school in Providence, Rhode Island. The video below shows the head of school announcing the closure of the school, due to a recent snowstorm, in song. It is worth watching.
First, the video is entertaining and well done. Second, it took a lot of work on the part of students and officials at the school. Third, it makes you like the school and want to send your kids there. In other words, it is a marketing video using the announcement of a school closing as its vehicle to carry the message.
Often, I meet people and they thank me for how HAC helped them, but few of them know what HAC does beyond what they learned from their own experience. This year we need to figure out how to get our message across to the general public and public officials on Cape Cod.
The Moses Brown video has had over 3 million viewings! It used humor, music and clever lyrics - things that we never use. Should we? What about using a fun video to announce, for example, that a housing development has been completed and there are rental units available?
A second thing I’d like to accomplish this year is to identify existing staff who want to “intern” for jobs that will become vacant due to impending retirements. People could learn new skills, develop new relationships, and see how a part of the agency they previously knew little about operates.
We then might be in a better position to select a replacement, reorganize one or more jobs and help people decide if they want to advance or change the focus of their careers. This would be part of our overall succession planning activities to replace senior staff who will be retiring in the next five years.
The third idea that I hope to put in place is the development of quarterly or semi-annual housing white papers for Cape Cod in which we make recommendations for what needs to be done to meet our affordable and workforce housing needs.
Ideally, we would work with other agencies to look at ideas to make things work better. For example, we might want to talk about plans with the Growth Management Department in the Town of Barnstable or the Cape Cod Commission to see how their ideas and plans can be furthered and integrated into what is going on in other towns on the Cape.
We would share ideas and plans and decide how to best accomplish them with the results shared with broader audiences. The “papers” would be just one way to bring together organizations to more effectively work together to accomplish common goals.
|Lisa and Buddy Vanderhoop with Wiley, their Weimeraner, at Owen Park Beach on Martha's Vineyard.
Imagine living in the same home for 23 years. It becomes a sanctuary – the place you not only lay your head every night, but where you find comfort, peace and make a treasure trove of memories that are impossible to put a price on.
Now imagine that being taken away from you in an instant.
That is exactly where Lisa and Buddy Vanderhoop found themselves last year. They stood at the precipice of losing the one constant in their life for nearly a quarter century. “It was the worst, most stressful time of my entire life… I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. At times I’d go from being sobbingly depressed to being numb,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “This is where my husband grew up, where his ancestry is. If we lose this house we lose our businesses and our livelihoods.”
For Buddy, Martha’s Vineyard has always been home. It is where he was born and tied his anchor, becoming the Island’s most famous charter fishing captain with a list of celebrity clients that have included Keith Richards, Spike Lee, Michael Mann, Jim Belushi and the late-Thomas Menino. He has been featured on Chronicle, The Moth Radio Hour and the Discovery Channel.
And his wife is an accomplished artist and photographer.
Despite their success they have not been immune to life’s pitfalls. It started in 2008 when Buddy’s youngest daughter was in a car accident on Hawaii, forcing him to travel west and cancel a month’s worth of charter trips during the height of the tourist season.
The spiral downward continued when Buddy’s brother was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. “My husband would escort him off-island to medical appointments,” Ms. Vanderhoop said, only adding to the family’s expenses.
That was followed by costly boat repairs and eventually with Buddy being diagnosed with prostate cancer over a year and a half ago. That diagnosis meant Buddy was unable to work for three months as he went through radiation treatment. And then last spring, the 64-year-old Buddy Vanderhoop suffered a heart attack.
As they faced these personal difficulties over the past four years, the Vanderhoops struggled to make their mortgage payments. Several times they tried unsuccessfully to work with their lenders to modify their loan to reduce their monthly payments.
HAC: The Vanderhoop's Last Hope
Though the couple continued to make their payments, they were falling behind on their loan until March 2013 when it was placed into default. As the Vanderhoops continued to seek a home loan modification they were informed in February of last year that their loan holder, Ocwen, was starting the foreclosure process.
“Basically, everybody said we were going to lose our house,” Ms. Vanderhoop said.
Looking for guidance, they consulted a mortgage lawyer who directed them to HAC. With nowhere else to turn, she and her husband made the trip to Hyannis last May, meeting with HAC’s foreclosure prevention counselor Joan Maney.
“She was unlike anybody I have ever talked to. When we met with Joan she was no nonsense,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “She was being very, very firm about what was needed. I left the office crying because I was so vulnerable anyway, but I was also crying with a smile on my face because this lady seemed like she knew what she is talking about.”
Two more times the pair would meet with Maney, filling out the necessary paperwork to be considered for a loan modification. Their efforts were successful as they were approved for a three-month temporary loan modification before it recently became permanent.
Their interest rate fell from 6.5 percent to two percent and they cut their monthly payments by nearly $1,900. “I truly believe it was because of your organization and Joan, why we ended up getting the loan modification,” Ms. Vanderhoop said.
Not every story has a happy ending like the Vanderhoops, but Maney said it is possible. What HAC provides, she said, is an understanding of “what the lender is looking for and how to best prepare an application.”
Because of that expertise, the Vanderhoops are now excitedly looking towards what life will bring. “It is such a relief,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “I feel like we can take this energy and put it into our businesses and have a future, a real future.”
|WCAI's Sean Corcoran sings "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" with several students from the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School.
During the first hour of the 11th Annual Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, State Representative Timothy Madden made his way onto the festively decorated set at the Cape Cod Community Media Center and spoke with hosts Mindy Todd and Sarah Colvin about the homeless situation on Cape Cod.
“This is our community and people have to step up now and contribute,” he said. “We can’t continue to live in a place like Cape Cod and have people who are homeless.”
The sad reality is that there are homeless people on Cape Cod and the telethon raises funds that go directly to HAC’s four shelters which serve that vulnerable population. In December more than $90,000 was raised during the five-hour live event to help support the programs and services at the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, Angel House in Hyannis, Carriage House in North Falmouth and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne.
That money ranged from small $10 and $15 donations from individuals to large ones like a $5,000 check from Heroes in Transition that the Mashpee nonprofit’s co-founders, Cynthia and Kenneth Jones, and one of its directors, Roberta Cannon, presented to HAC on air.
Each donation represented one small step towards giving HAC clients a better life through programs intended to not only provide them with the basic essentials – food and housing – but the tools and confidence to become self-sufficient. Paul Melville, a consultant who runs a parenting group for fathers living at The Village at Cataumet, spoke about his experience working with clients and the benefits his program has brought to them. “They talk about parenting tips and their successes and we talk about their hopes and dreams,” Melville said.
And while he has never been homeless, he said, he has lived in subsidized housing, allowing him a chance to relate to what the parents he works with at the shelter are going through. “I remember thinking [when I was in subsidized housing] this isn’t where or how I wanted to raise my children,” Melville said. “I get them to open up and to realize this isn’t long term.”
If anything, the telethon was an indication of the help, and hope, that the community provides to HAC’s clients. This year’s event saw over 75 sponsors, ranging from Comcast to Clancy’s Tavern in Dennis Port to Hyannis Toyota to Cape Associates in Yarmouth Port to Falmouth Lumber, as well as roughly 170 volunteers that called friends and family throughout the evening asking them to donate to the telethon.
|Volunteers from Shepley Wood Products were in the holiday spirit.
A team of phone volunteers from Shepley Wood Products was adorned in Santa hats while a group from the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod wore pink construction hats.
Among those providing entertainment during the evening were several HAC staffers, including Alison Reid who sang a live rendition of the Jackson Five’s “Give Love on Christmas Day” as well as Greg and Karin Bar and Derick Bussiere who performed a pre-taped acoustic version of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”
WCAI’s Sean Corcoran, who served as a co-host during the evening, led several children from the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School in a sing-a-long of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” while David Kuehn, executive director of the Cotuit Center for the Arts, was joined by actress Hannah Carrita in performing a Christmas-themed medley.
|State Representative Timothy Madden (right) talks about homelessness on Cape Cod with telethon co-hosts Mindy Todd (left) and Sarah Colvin.
Underlying the performances was the theme of action, one that several speakers touched upon throughout the night. “We’ve got to do better and we will do better,” Madden said.
“Homelessness is a national disgrace,” said David Augustinho, chair of HAC’s executive board. “Everybody needs to solve this problem together.”
It is a problem that not only HAC is working to solve, but those in the community. Dr. Nate Rudman, an emergency room physician at Cape Cod Hospital, noted that he sees homeless men and women spend anywhere from 140 to 170 hours in the ER because they have nowhere else to go.
“There are so many people in need,” Hyannis Fire Chief Harold Brunelle said. “I think so many people are just one paycheck away from being homeless and we already have a big homeless population on the Cape.”
Thank you so much to all our sponsors (click here for the full list) who helped make this telethon our best yet!
Even though the telethon is over, you can still help support HAC's shelter program. Click the button below to do so today!
|Luanne McCollum (left) doing a client's hair at Angel House.
Once a month Luanne McCollum hops in her car and makes the one-hour trek from Provincetown to Hyannis.
It is a trip she has been making for roughly the past five years. She does so not for her own enjoyment, but the joy it gives to those who are struggling to overcome life’s obstacles.
The visits to Hyannis allow McCollum, a hairdresser by trade, to ply her talents on clients at the Angel House shelter. She will cut, color and curl their hair, helping boost the self-esteem and confidence of women who cope with the trauma of homelessness and addiction.
The seed for volunteering at Angel House occurred after McCollum read an article about a program, Dress for Success, that provided business attire for disadvantaged women on Cape Cod in order for them to go on job interviews. “At the time I thought I could do their hair,” said McCollum, who owns Waves Salon in Provincetown.
About a year later, she began doing just that after talking to a customer who worked for HAC and who introduced her to Angel House.
Over the years she has volunteered her time at the shelter, she has grown to appreciate what it provides to the women and the children there. “I feel this is an amazing facility and it is very much needed,” she said.
McCollum focuses primarily on the mothers in shelter, though occasionally she has been known to work on some of the staff including Angel House manager Lil Burlingame, assistant teacher Amy Brigham and case manager Paula Farren.
“We love her dearly,” Farren said of McCollum. “She is a sweet woman.”
“She is a sweet woman,” Burlingame agreed. “We are very appreciative for what she does for these women and for us.”
As the pair praised McCollum in their office, about 15 feet away she draped a barbers cape around the neck of Courtney, an Angel House client. On this day in December, she would be getting a blow dry.
“I think it is awesome she comes in here and gives us her time,” Courtney said.
She was the second of five clients that McCollum was scheduled to work on last month. Sometimes she has more appointments, sometimes she has less.
Regardless of whether it is clients or staff, McCollum refuses to take any payments. And in December and May (Mother’s Day), she has a supply of hair products she gives to the clients as a gift.
Burlingame acknowledged that being pampered by McCollum makes the clients feel special which is important for their self-esteem.
That may explain why McCollum continues to venture into Hyannis, month after month, year after year. “It feels good to do this for these young women,” she said. “A lot of them haven’t had the chance to have their hair done professionally in a long time because it is expensive.”
And, perhaps most importantly, she said, “most people feel better after getting their hair done.”
|Glen Baker collected donations at the Stop & Shop in South Yarmouth.
In many ways Glen Baker is your average fifth grader. He plays football and baseball and enjoys hanging out with his friends at the Nathaniel H. Wixon Innovation School in South Dennis.
It is there, while attending a school assembly focused on the issue of homelessness in November, Glen was inspired to do something unusual for an 11-year-old. He wanted to make a positive difference in his community.
So in the three days leading up to Thanksgiving, Glen set up a table and some bins inside the Stop & Shop in South Yarmouth, and spent a few hours after school collecting donations – money, food and clothes – for Cape Cod’s homeless men and women.
As he manned the table the first night, Baker said he was taken aback at the assembly when he learned that, “some of my friends were homeless at a point in their lives.”
Feeling sympathy for them was not enough. Baker wanted to help them, and others in similar situations, by organizing a drive with all donations going to the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis.
With his mother, Darlene Baker, and older brother, Drew Cochran, 17, by his side, Glen smiled as one store employee commended him for his efforts. “This is awesome,” she said. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Here’s a few dollars. You might want to stuff it in there,” one customer said, handing Glen a donation to put in a small, clear plastic container.
Another customer, having just won $100 on a scratch ticket, paid it forward by giving some of her winnings to Glen’s drive for the homeless. “This is my lucky day so it’s your lucky day,” she said.
As his donations began to slowly pile up, Drew marveled at the small act of kindness his brother was displaying. “It is pretty neat,” Drew said. “It caught me off guard when he said he was going to help out the homeless. He is only 11 years old. You wouldn’t think an 11-year-old would do this.”
|Glen Baker with Greg Bar of the NOAH Shelter
In total, Glen was able to collect over $1,000 worth of donations that included coats, gloves, toiletries, food and $583 that will go to help those staying at the NOAH Shelter.
A little less than a week after he finished his drive, Glen had a chance to meet those he was helping when he stopped by the shelter to drop off the donations. “This is Glen,” said shelter director Greg Bar as he introduced him to the roughly 20 clients sitting in the NOAH Shelter common room. “This 11-year-old kid had an idea that, ‘Hey, I can do something to help people.’ So he set up a table at Stop & Shop and people dropped off food, coats and gloves for people who are in need. Isn’t that cool?”
|NOAH Shelter Director Greg Bar and Santa Claus on Christmas morning.
Slippers, soap, flashlights, toothbrushes and water bottles are not at the top of most people’s Christmas lists.
But on Christmas morning, these basic gifts were handed out to homeless men and women who had spent the previous night at the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis. They were small in worth, but the items were invaluable to the recipients.
“Kindness,” was the answer one client offered when asked what the gifts meant to him.
“This is great for those who don’t have family or anywhere to go for Christmas,” said another client in his mid-20’s who has been homeless for nearly nine months.
The experience of being on the streets, he said, “is pretty miserable” and celebrating the holidays in shelter was difficult because he would not be with his son on Christmas.
But thanks to the charitableness of complete strangers – people like Michael and Area Princi of Marstons Mills, Lisa Balegno of Marstons Mills and her daughters Rachel and Ashley, Jerry and Susan Friedman of Cotuit, and Jason and Melissa Rossi of Marstons Mills – the clients at the NOAH Shelter had something to celebrate. The group arrived at the shelter at 5:30 on Christmas morning, adorned in Santa hats and armed with eggs, sausage, potatoes and bread.
Together, they made breakfast to order – omelettes, scrambled eggs and French toast, helping to ensure the holiday started off on the right foot for NOAH clients. It is a tradition the Princi’s have done for the last, “five or six years… It is really one of the most rewarding Christmas mornings you can have because we get more heartfelt ‘thank you’s’ from everybody that comes out,” Michael said. “It is not normal for the homeless and people at the shelter to be waited on and be given a nice, hot breakfast.”
Since 1990, the Princi’s have also organized a holiday gift basket drive for families in shelter and those making the transition out of it. Michael talked about the lessons the drive has taught his children and grandchildren. “One of the things it did for them is that it gave them a tremendous appreciation for everything we have and how important it is to remember and act to help those who don’t have as much,” he said.
Cape Cod's Secret Santa
HAC has witnessed similar charity in one anonymous donor - a true Secret Santa - who donated $50 each to clients at the NOAH Shelter this past December, just as he has in recent years.
That spirit continued through Christmas morning at NOAH, where following breakfast, shelter director Greg Bar was joined by Santa Claus in singing a medley of Christmas songs that included “Holly Jolly Christmas”, “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” as clients joined in.
Scott and Jackie Dutra of Centerville, and their two daughters Gabriella, 16, and Miranda, 15, then handed out gifts to the clients.
“I need these so bad,” one homeless woman said as she was given slippers.
The festivities ended with a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” sung by Mary Stacey-Smith, who works at both the NOAH Shelter and Angel House. “This is great,” she said afterwards. “Hopefully, this lifted people’s spirits and gave them something to celebrate on Christmas. This was a way to make their morning bright and start the day off right.”
Inside the shelter’s kitchen, Bar proudly reflected on the Christmas celebration with Santa by his side. “At least we gave them something to remember,” Bar said.
For Santa, the morning epitomized what the holiday is all about. “All the love in this shelter for the homeless is inspiring. It really is,” he said.