|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.