At the end of March, a mother and her 19-month-old son walked into HAC’s office at 460 Main Street. Even before they reached the receptionist’s desk, the pair found themselves engrossed in a stack of books in HAC’s free library that greets visitors in the foyer.
With her child by her side, the mom grabbed five books – two featuring SpongeBob, one of Curious George, another of My Little Pony and the last titled “The Little Penguin” – that she would later bring home for her son and two other children to devour.
It was a simple scene that showed how popular HAC’s library, created by CEO Rick Presbrey in the late 90’s, has become. “It has been such a hit which is why we are often out of books,” said office manager Lynne Perry. “We can’t keep books on the shelves so we’re always in need of books for children and adults.”
Those wanting to make a donation to HAC’s free library can do so by dropping off used books at our main office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis, Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 4:30 pm. While any book donations are welcome, HAC is currently in need of those geared towards adults.
Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the
world a door opens to allow in more light.
During their time at HAC, Cornell students not only lent their voice to the agency’s monthly newsletter, but to its social media platform.
The group was responsible for helping HAC launch an Instagram account, adding to its current offerings on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “We see this as a way to add a more youthful message to the work we are doing,” said Julie Wake, HAC’s director of communications and development. “The programs and services we provide have a serious bent to them, but by using Instagram we want to visually show that helping others is not only cool, but can be a lot of fun.”
To follow HAC on Instagram, click this link or search haconcapecod when on your smart phone. And make sure to use the hashtag #HAConCapeCod when posting photos or videos of our events.
|The Cornell students with children from The Village at Cataumet at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center.
By CORNELL STUDENTS
Hope is found in many different forms at HAC. It can be seen in a little boy who keeps trying to skate after falling more than 20 times. It can be found in a home reunited after overcoming mental illness or a lack of housing stability. It can be seen in the loving looks between a couple trying to make their lives better for their first child they are expecting in July. Hope can even be seen in a clean room to sleep in for a night at the NOAH shelter.
Hope, and often a second chance, is what HAC provides for the individuals it serves on a daily basis.
Being in the office for a week, our team was able to interview many staff and clients. The staff welcomed us with open arms and told stories of challenging themselves to be more successful in leading their clients towards stability. While all acknowledged that the work they do can be tiring at times, the way their faces lit up as they told stories of success and happiness showed where their motivation came from.
We came to HAC hoping to help the agency, but instead found ourselves reaping the benefits of working with such courageous staff and client population. The positivity and stories of conquering adversity, showed us that no matter where one ends up in life, there is always someone who will have their back. And that is something that should give us all hope.
By CORNELL STUDENTS
One of the qualities HAC employees are known for is their compassion for the people they serve. That compassion may lie in the fact that occasionally staffers are clients, and therefore understand the emotions one goes through when seeking help from HAC.
Ann Rebello, HAC’s accounts payable clerk, is a prime example. A few years ago, she was struggling to afford the high costs of rent on Cape Cod so she moved in with her daughter to lessen the financial blow. When her daughter eventually moved out, Rebello looked to colleague Cheryl Kramer, manager of HAC’s Housing and Consumer Education Center (HCEC), for guidance.
“I wanted to see if I could get a consolidated loan to pay my bills so maybe I could afford a little more (rent),” Rebello said. “But when Cheryl saw my credit, she said, ‘Why don’t you try to buy?’ I didn’t think I could afford to buy, but she told me that mortgages are less than rent.”
That one meeting led Rebello to work with Gael Kelleher, the director of real estate for HAC’s Cape Community Real Estate (CCRE), in 2013 to find an affordable home she eventually purchased in South Yarmouth. “Being able to buy a house at my age with my income is nothing short of a miracle,” Rebello said.
Today, Rebello could not be happier. At the end of July, she will be celebrating her second anniversary as a homeowner on Cape Cod.
At HAC, Rebello is not alone. Volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin and her husband, who moved to Massachusetts in the spring of 2008, ran into financial complications while trying to sell their previous home in Arizona in the midst of one of the worst economic recessions in recent history.
As a result, the couple moved in with Everett-Patriquin’s mother, saving money to afford their own place. During that time, she was hired by HAC’s communications and development team, and enrolled in the nonprofit’s Homebuyer Education class.
Afterwards, she utilized HAC’s services as Kelleher acted as their real estate agent and was able to find them a condominium in Yarmouth that the couple moved into about a year and a half ago. Like Rebello, Everett-Patriquin could not be more pleased with the assistance she received as a client.
And both agreed that one of the most satisfying aspects of their home purchases was that it was able to generate a profit for HAC. As a nonprofit real estate company, CCRE supports itself and generates funds for HAC programs every time they help a client buy or sell a home. For Kelleher that is the strength of her department. “We don’t make it for profit,” she said. “We make it to do good.”
|Charlene (left) with HAC’s AnnMarie Torrey.
By CORNELL STUDENTS
Motivation comes in many forms. For some, it is internal. For others, it is external.
With Charlene, her motivation was the latter, using her daughter and granddaughter as inspiration to find a home where they could safely live together.
Not long ago, that concept was merely a dream that Charlene thought was impossible. But with HAC’s help, Charlene discovered that some dreams are attainable. You just need a little encouragement and a lot of support. At HAC, Charlene received both.
She turned to HAC about five years ago when she was at one of the lowest points in her life. Her daughter had just been diagnosed with a mental illness, and Charlene was given guardianship of her granddaughter.
In the midst of this, she was dealt another devastating blow when the house she had lived in for 20 years was sold to a new owner who did not want to continue renting it. Due to her income and the high cost of apartments on Cape Cod, Charlene’s housing options were limited.
With nowhere else go to, she looked to HAC for guidance, working with caseworker AnnMarie Torrey to find housing not only for her, but her entire family.
Torrey steered Charlene to Massachusetts’ new HomeBASE program which assists people who are homeless, facing eviction or those living in subsidized hotel or motel rooms paid for by the state, helping them find secure housing. Thanks to the program and HAC’s help, Charlene was able to move into a new condo with her granddaughter, staying there for two years.
During that time, she continued to work with Torrey, filling out applications for Section 8 subsidized housing. That persistence paid off as she was able to be placed in a new apartment in Centerville, all while she continues to wait for her Section 8 voucher.
“Because Charlene was diligent in filling out her forms, her name came to the top of the MRVP (Section 8) list which qualified her for extended subsidy,” Torrey said. “She now pays only 40% of her income for housing.”
For Charlene, HAC has been a blessing, providing her family a safety net when they needed it most. It does not “just give you a place to live, it enables you to get our life in order so that things are as they should be,” she explained. “You can pick yourself up and have the strength to get to a good place like we are now.”
Today, Charlene and her family are thriving. Her daughter received treatment for her illness and has since moved in, making Charlene’s dreams come true. “All three of us are doing very well and thanks to the assistance of HAC and their programs, it literally saved three lives,” she said. “Three people’s lives would have been torn apart if not for their assistance and I’m truly grateful to have received that help.”
Learn more about the HAC project Cornell University students did
on their alternative spring break this year by clicking this link.
|Cornell University students Joon Jeong (from left), Allison Laphen, Irene Bae, Anum Chaudhry, Breanna Ross and Nupur Bhatt spent their alternative spring break “hijacking” HACbeat, creating content for this month’s newsletter.
Staff in HAC’s communications and development department have the chance to interact with a wide array of clients and colleagues with incredible stories, ranging from tragedy to triumph and everything in between.
“We get to see people at all different levels,” Julie Wake, the director of that department, said. “It is very exciting, especially because people are very interesting to me.”
Wake made the statement on the first of a four-day session in which six students from Cornell University had a chance to “hijack” HACbeat, taking over the responsibility of writing HAC’s monthly newsletter from Chris Kazarian and meeting the nonprofit’s employees who deliver housing services as well as clients who are the recipients of their hard work.
It provided the Ivy League contingent with an opportunity to immerse themselves in HAC culture, whether it was learning about the Cape Homes program that assists the region’s homeless from client services manager Anne Marie Peters or talking with shelter clients like Connie Pinkney about their dreams for the future. Pinkney’s goal was simple: she wants to one day be able to take care of her husband.
The students saw the gritty side of Cape Cod, in the form of a homeless couple, roughly the same age as them, staying at The Village at Cataumet, trying to get back on their feet, not just for themselves, but for the baby they were expecting. What they took out of these types of interactions during their short time here was not despair, but something much more positive.
“I found them to have a lot of hope considering their situation,” said Anum Chaudhry, a master’s student at Cornell. “They were ready to fix their situation for their baby. That was really an inspiration for me. And they were so young which was interesting because they have experienced more in life although they are younger than me.”
The trip leader, Breanna Ross, a sophomore from New Jersey studying industrial and labor relations, agreed, saying that she saw a resilience in those that HAC serves. “It seems like there are a lot of good people who had trouble in life and are going through bad times and are doing everything they can to get out of it and continue to live their life and live their dreams,” she said.
Junior Nupur Bhatt of Indianapolis, acknowledged that HAC has been successful in helping clients realize their dreams. “Clearly what you are doing is making a difference,” she said.
|Trip leader Breanna Ross with one of the cookies she baked, in the shape of Cape Cod, at HAC's Angel House shelter in Hyannis.
Over the course of their time at HAC, the students – sophomore Allison Laphen of Rittman, Ohio, freshman Irene Bae of Long Island, New York, and sophomore Joon Jeong of Dallas, Texas, rounded out the group - had a chance to explore the NOAH Shelter, bake Easter-themed cookies with mothers at Angel House, go ice skating in Hyannis with children living in shelter and visit the National Seashore.
The trip concluded on Thursday with a dinner in which the group shared photos and stories from their alternative spring break with HAC staff and local Cornell alumni Barbara Conolly of Mashpee, and John Banner of Falmouth. HAC CEO Rick Presbrey expressed a genuine appreciation for students and the 11-year collaboration between the college and the nonprofit. “You all are impressive folks,” he said. “It is so amazing to meet people who have their heads screwed on right.”
While he acknowledged the agency always learns something valuable from the students that visit HAC on an annual basis every spring, it was apparent that this year’s group experienced a similar enlightenment. “I wanted to do something useful on my spring break instead of being home and wasting time,” Nupur said. “I learned a lot and I’ve definitely been inspired to continue volunteering within my own community.”
|The Cornell contingent were joined at their farewell dinner by alumni from the Cape Cod chapter of the Ivy League school Barbara Conolly (far left) of Mashpee, and John Banner (far right) of Falmouth.
With Mother's Day this Sunday and Father's Day (June 21) and high school and college graduations just around the corner, there is a good chance that some of you will be buying gifts for these special occasions on Amazon.com.
If you do, there is an easy way to turn your Amazon purchase into much-needed funds to support HAC programs through the company's AmazonSmile program. The best part is that it costs you nothing.
All you have to do is use your Amazon or Amazon Prime account and log onto AmazonSmile (click this link) and designate Housing Assistance Corp. as your charity of choice. You can then shop for the same products - books, movies, jewelry, flowers and electronics - as you normally would.
Each time you make a purchase through AmazonSmile, a small portion (0.5%) of the purchase price is donated to HAC. It may not seem like much, but each donation adds up, allowing HAC to help a mother or father or family on Cape Cod get help when they need it most.
|Dan McCullough (from left) of Team M25, Rick Presbrey and Darin Weeks of the Cape Cod Five pose for a photo at HAC’s main office.
In Bourne, Maura Dankert occasionally runs into children who once lived in shelter at The Village at Cataumet where she has been organizing birthday parties for them over the past six years. “One little girl calls me, ‘the birthday lady,’” Dankert laughed. “I’ve been called so many things and that is the best.”
To be associated with the charitable work you do to help others is one of life’s greatest satisfactions. And on Thursday, April 9, HAC will recognize the work of “the birthday lady” and several others on Cape Cod who have devoted themselves to addressing the region’s housing issues as part of its 41st Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition.
“I always look forward to the annual meeting,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said. “It is a celebration of what we have achieved in the past year and, in this case, the past 41 years… And it’s always nice to give out awards to recognize people for the work they do with housing on Cape Cod and the Islands.”
Dankert will join Sandwich’s Darin Weeks, a mortgage loan officer from Cape Cod Five, as HAC’s Volunteers of the Year. “I feel completely honored and wasn’t expecting this,” Dankert said. “I feel like I don’t do enough and I feel like I can do more, and we can do more.”
What she has done is provide families at The Village at Cataumet with a sense of normalcy by providing them with cake, ice cream, juice boxes, wrapped presents and a craft as a way to celebrate a child’s birthday. “I feel like they have so many stressors that if I can provide a happy time for an hour and a half where the family is engaged and there are lots of smiles, it’s the least I can do,” she said.
Weeks’ contributions to HAC have been felt for over a decade. He has taught classes at HAC’s first-time homebuyer workshops, serving as an expert for clients who may not know what to expect when purchasing a home on Cape Cod. “There’s no better feeling than helping someone get their first home,” Weeks said.
The Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District (BID) has been selected as the 2014 Business Partner of the Year. The organization has been instrumental in the creation and implementation of the Day Center at NOAH.
|Matt Pitta (left) of WXTK will once again serve as the MC for this year's annual meeting.
Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of the BID, was pleased with the relationship that has developed between HAC, her organization and several other community groups in pushing the day center program forward. “We all are a part of this change and I think if we want to see the change, we have to be the change,” she said, stressing that improving what goes on at NOAH is a priority for the BID. “The ability to help treat the homeless is bigger than you can imagine… It is really important not just to Hyannis, but all of Cape Cod.”
Perhaps no organization does more to help the homeless than Team M25 and next month that nonprofit will be recognized with the Human Services Partner Award. Formed seven years ago, M25 is currently run by Dan McCullough and Maureen Carser who care for the Cape’s homeless living outdoors by providing them with the necessary goods – socks, coats, boots, gloves, tents and food – and services they need to survive.
The Rewards of Helping the Homeless
The work has been immensely gratifying for McCullough, who is a columnist for the Cape Cod Times, a medical ethicist for Cape Cod Hospital and a philosophy and religion professor at Cape Cod Community College. “I’ve gotten a lot more from these people than they’ve taken from me,” he said. “I know - this is not just a Hallmark card - how blessed and fortunate I am. A lot of people pay thousands of dollars to psychiatrists to be convinced things are not as bad as they are. I get that for free every day by working with my people.”
The 2014 Presbrey Public Service Award is going to Brewster’s Paul Ruchinskas, who recently retired as the Cape Cod Commission’s affordable housing specialist.
He and his wife of 42 years, Loretta, moved to Cape Cod in 2001. “Literally going over the bridge and being near or around the water has a soothing effect on the soul,” he said. “I’ve always regarded the Cape as a very, very special place.”
His work with the commission played a role in helping the Cape to retain that character as he administered and managed the county’s HOME Program, utilizing federal and state funds to support affordable development in the region. “I’m proud of the fact the Barnstable County HOME Consortium helped create 1,300 affordable units in the region over its history,” he said. “And I’m most pleased to have played a very small role in helping to make that happen.”
Ruchinskas has been a strong proponent of affordable housing because, “it is a character, quality-of-the-Cape kind of issue. Something every decent society should do is make sure housing is available for folks who live there and work there.”
To attend this year's Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition, please click this link. The event takes place next Thursday, April 9 at 5 pm the Cape Codder Resort & Spa at 1225 Iyannough Road in Hyannis.
My father never thought work should be fun.
Growing up we lived on a three-acre lot in an area that was making the transition from farmland to suburbia. My father loved to landscape and garden. Consequently, every year he would increase the size of the area that had grass, ornamental trees and gardens, both vegetable and flower. Around each tree or shrub was a circular border that was free of grass and weeds and was edged and trimmed.
In the summer, when I was growing up, I was expected to cut the grass and trim these areas on all four sides of the house. I may be exaggerating, but it would take me mornings and afternoons, four days a week to get the job done.
When my father got home from work, I remember him checking out what I had accomplished for the day and always finding fault. I quickly learned to hate cutting the grass, a dislike that has stayed with me until this day. I also began to realize that my father didn’t enjoy his work.
My lesson was cemented: I wouldn’t work at something I didn’t enjoy and if work isn’t fun make it fun, somehow. I think I have at least partly - and hopefully, mostly - achieved that goal at HAC. I know that I love the work I do. There is very little criticism or punishment. I have tried to treat people that way and our board has almost always treated me that way.
People here are given a lot of independence, within sometimes very limiting regulations. The “bosses” understand that we all make mistakes and we usually experience enough regret that further admonishment from a boss is almost always unnecessary. We have had “bad” bosses here and I think in every case they are now gone.
We also try to be understanding and even tolerant of our clients’ struggles. We don’t condone criticism and negativity towards our clients with very few exceptions. We also are nice and not competitive with each other and are willing to take the blame and share the credit. And everyone knows that my very favorite thing is helping each client resolve their crisis. That feeling, and the caring we exhibit, is contagious. Why should someone care about our clients if I don’t?
I am about to go into a meeting about succession planning. Four members of the senior management team are 65 or older. All four intend to retire within the next two years. They have a total combined experience at HAC of well over 100 years!
In some cases, people will move up and into some of those positions and people will join the agency to fill their jobs. In other cases, new people will come in from the outside. So my question is: how do we maintain the culture of fun, non-competitiveness and caring for the clients? It doesn’t happen everywhere.
Each quarter HAC teams up with a local business and holds a drive for basic home goods for clients making the transition from shelter to permanent housing.
Currently, the folks at Sullivan & Sullivan Auctioneers of Sandwich, will be collecting a variety of new household items (towels, silverware, canned goods, paper goods, blankets, cleaning supplies, toiletries, gift cards, hats, gloves, winter coats) that will be placed into Welcome Home Gift Baskets for our clients. The drive runs from March through Friday, April 3.
Those wanting to take part in the gift basket drive and give our clients a fresh start in their new homes can do so by bringing donations to:
Sullivan & Sullivan Auctioneers, LLC
148 Route 6A
Sandwich, MA 02563
Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4 pm
In December, The Young Professionals Network, a subcommittee of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, organized the inaugural drive as a way to show our shelter clients how much the community cares and wants them to succeed once they transition out of shelter.
To learn how your organization can get involved or for additional information contact Julie Wake at 508-771-5400 or jwake@HAConCapeCod.org