|HAC's Liz Belcher with her Big Fix team which made improvements to Joan Graham's Brewster home
Early on a mid-September Saturday morning in Brewster, as complete strangers started clearing brush and cutting back overgrown trees from her Main Street yard, 73-year-old Joan Graham had tears in her eyes as she stood inside her kitchen. “It’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s also nerve-wracking too. I am pretty independent and it is hard to accept help.”
Graham was one of 14 Brewster residents to benefit from this year’s Big Fix that saw the largest turnout ever for the day of service, with 278 volunteers dedicating a few hours to make small home improvements for seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners in the Cape community.
The Brewster Big Fix attracted volunteers from throughout Cape Cod and at least one from off-Cape, who participated in the annual community service event. And there were several groups – Mashpee Boy Scout Troop 36, AmeriCorps Cape Cod, Cape Associates and the Barnstable High School Human Rights Club, among others – that did their part in giving back to their neighbors in need.
In many ways, the day represents a celebration of what it means to be a community which is why it was more than appropriate that volunteer Deb Beresford of Hyannis spent her birthday cleaning up 88-year-old Eleanor Stieglitz’s yard. “Last year, we did it for a veteran who came out and cried when he said, ‘thank you’ to us,” said Beresford, who has participated in several Big Fixes. “It touches your heart when you can do something so meaningful for somebody. And it’s a great way to spend your birthday.”
Big Fix Beneficiaries
At the same home, more than a dozen children who are members of Shea’s Youth Basketball Association, were busy with yard work, all in an effort to make Ms. Stieglitz’s life a little easier. Jonah Shea, founder of the basketball nonprofit, said the great part about the Big Fix is that “you get to see the actual person you’re helping.”
These were people like John and Antoinette Mara, who had built their Brewster home in 1976, moving there permanently eight years later. John, 92, had served in the Pacific Theater for the Navy during World War II. The couple had recently celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary; the Big Fix served as the icing on the cake to that celebration. “Our home means everything,” said Antoinette. “And now I can walk up my driveway and see our house as I always wanted it to look.”
|Giving back can be fun as shown by Ryan Johnson (left), an assistant scoutmaster for Mashpee Boy Scout Troop 36, and Rowan Higgins, who volunteered at the Mara's home in Brewster.
Earlier in the morning, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey spoke about what the volunteer work would mean to homeowners like the Maras during the kick-off to the Big Fix at Stony Brook Elementary School. “This is something unbelievable for most of them, the fact that somebody actually comes to their house and takes care of things that have been frustrating and bothering them,” he said.
For 67-year-old Owen Hirtle, the Big Fix represented exactly that. After volunteers had left his home, having removed trash and cleaned his yard, the Vietnam veteran reflected on the act of charity that had been thrust upon him. “This is the biggest ‘thank you’ I have had since I got out [of the military],” he said. “It makes me feel even more proud I live in this country and that people do care.”
|To view more pictures from last month's Big Fix, click this link. Next year, HAC will be bringing the Big Fix to Falmouth. You can click the above link to learn more about the Big Fix or apply to be a recipient or a volunteer.