Martha Handel with HAC CEO Rick Presbrey (left) and HAC Vice President of Administration Michael Sweeney.
“I lost my husband to cancer nine years ago,” Martha Handel said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I know he is watching over me because he brought these angels here today.”
Those “angels” were roughly a half-dozen volunteers who spent the second-to-last Saturday in October removing some bamboo and tearing down an old shed on Handel’s Pocasset property as part of HAC’s Big Fix. It was relatively minor work, but to Handel it meant the world.
That type of gratitude was on full display in Bourne where roughly 175 volunteers from throughout Cape Cod came out to help 12 residents in need. Now in its sixth year, the Big Fix aims to improve the quality of life for veterans, seniors and the disabled by making small improvements to their homes, the type of work that is often too difficult and expensive for them to undertake.
Paula Mallard, director of the Village at Cataumet, and her husband Bill witnessed firsthand how meaningful the day can be for recipients of the work. The couple spent time at Susan and Paul Tudor’s Sagamore Beach home, where a small crew did yard work, painted their front stairs and power-washed and repaired the back deck.
Two days prior to the Big Fix, Bill had visited the Tudor’s home to do prep work, noticing that they remained inside and seemed “very, very depressed.”
During the Big Fix, their mood completely changed. “They were outside working with us,” Bill said. “It was just unbelievable… They were so appreciative of the fact that someone would take the time to care for them.”
The event engenders a real compassion that struck HAC CEO Rick Presbrey who visited several homes during the day. In an email to staff following the Big Fix, he called it “the best feel-good thing we do all year. Twelve homes and 12 homeowners overflowed with gratitude and appreciation and amazement at what our team of volunteers accomplished.”
Volunteers included a group from AmeriCorps Cape Cod, Boy Scout Troop 36 from Mashpee, students from Barnstable High School’s human rights club and a dozen Home Depot employees, mostly from their Wareham store.
“I see all of you and you’re here for no other reason than to help somebody in need,” Kate Ferreira, the project manager for the Big Fix, told the group during the morning kick-off.
In previous years, Larry O’Brien and his children Savannah, 18, Ben, 16, and Jackson, 15, have been on the giving side of the Big Fix equation. This year, they were on the receiving end as they saw roughly two dozen volunteers clean up their yard, repair a back deck and replace an entire wall of the back porch of their home which was built in the 1830s. “It is kind of humbling to have people come out to our house and help,” O’Brien said. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciate what you are doing here. This gives us a chance to where we can now maintain our home again.”
Sannie Rocheteau of Yarmouth used the event as a teaching moment for her son Noah Delano, 8, as they cleaned brush from Vietnam veteran Brian Cullity’s yard. “I’m teaching my son the value of community service and hard work,” Sannie said, adding that the event fed her own “passion to feel connected with other human beings. At the end of the day, we’re all part of the same world.”
To see more photos from this year's Big Fix, visit our Facebook page here.
Did You Know?
Our Bourne Big Fix volunteers donated a total of 826 hours, showing how you can give your time and make a major difference in the lives of those in need.