Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

A Barn Raising at Community Green with Cornell Students

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 12:04 PM
Cornell_Day_4-7.jpgCornell University students were joined by guests at the NOAH Shelter and HAC staff in building a barn at the agency's Community Green property. 

A little more than a week before five Cornell students visited Cape Cod at the end of March, a small patch of land in Sandwich where a miniature donkey named Cooper, some goats and chickens roamed lay vacant.

With the guidance of HAC’s maintenance supervisor Keith Trott, those students helped transform that vacant land into a barn on the agency’s Community Green property where the goal is to one day build 60 affordable apartments.

The project was tackled as part of Cornell University’s alternative spring break, giving college students an opportunity to give back and learn about the impact social service agencies make in the lives of others. Over the past 12 years Cornell has sent a contingent to Cape Cod where they have assisted HAC in its mission to ensure all have access to safe, stable, decent housing.

“I guess I wanted to spend my time and energy away from school doing something valuable,” said Cornell freshman Evelyn Shan as to why she signed up for the trip. It was a similar response for those who joined Shan, including seniors Kentaro Asai of Yokohama, Japan, and Ben Kennet of Silver Spring, Maryland; junior Stacey Kim of Anaheim, California; and freshman Kyle (Eliot) Huang of Salta Lake City, Utah.

Over the course of four days, the Cornell students focused on building the barn while also taking time to visit the NOAH Shelter, to bowl at Ryan Family Amusements in Hyannis with children staying at The Village at Cataumet and to speak with staff about the work they do at HAC.

NOAH Guests Assist With Project

At Community Green, the group was joined by four guests staying at the NOAH Shelter – George, Gayla, Mike and George, all of whom lent their talents to the barn project. Shelter director Greg Bar expressed his appreciation for HAC giving the four the opportunity to help. “I’m just so proud of you guys,” Bar said to the NOAH guests at a farewell dinner for the Cornell students held at Shepley Showcase. “I saw the results after the first day. You just looked brighter.”

Kim, who served as the trip leader, spoke to the passion that staff like Bar have for the work they do and the people they serve. “I guess the really impressive thing about HAC are the people who are invested in housing and homelessness,” she said. “There is a lot of heart that goes into what you do. It is so moving and it really touched me.”

Cornell_Day_4-9.jpgTrip leader Stacey Kim (left) and Evelyn Shan show off some of the tools used in building the Community Green barn. 

HAC’s volunteers bring a similar sense of energy to supporting the agency, something that Kennet spoke to as he mentioned the more than 44,000 meals they serve on an annual basis to those at the NOAH Shelter. “I think it is good to know that volunteers are valued and their work means something and it is important,” he said.

The goal at HAC, CEO Rick Presbrey told the students, is to create a welcoming culture, particularly for “the people we serve because they often aren’t welcomed where they go.” That extended to the group from Cornell who he praised for their efforts as he urged them to continue to be charitable, leaving them with this piece of advice: “something magical happens when one person helps another.”


Tags: alternative spring break, Cornell University, Community Green, Community Service, volunteerism

Editorial: Finding Nemo by Rick Presbrey

Posted by Julie Wake on Fri, Mar 15, 2013 @ 09:00 AM
describe the image
For those of you who don’t know, HAC has a farm. It is a small farm, in Sandwich, where there is a 44-plot community garden, a 1.5-acre market garden, three goats and 22 chickens. The caretaker, who lives in the Curio House on the property is Jim MacDougall. Jim takes care of the complicated zero-net-energy house, the land, the gardening equipment and various improvements. This year he will be building an equipment storage barn, for example. Jim also has five years of professional experience taking care of chickens and recently attended “goat” school in Maine. Jim, as you can tell, is a skilled and versatile guy.

On Feb. 7, the day before this winter’s big blizzard, Jim was preparing for the animals to be safe and secure. He was disturbed to note that one of the chickens, who had become increasingly sickly during the few days prior, was not eating and could barely walk. He had been concerned for the chicken, but with the storm coming he felt that there was no way that the chicken would survive. With the resolve of a professional chicken farmer, Jim did something that he had done many times when working on a large chicken farm. He put the chicken out of its misery by breaking its neck. Since the ground was frozen, he temporarily disposed of the body in a square plastic compost bin behind the goat house. It was the second chicken that had been lost (the other was run over by a car) and each one was a loss for Jim, but he reasoned only losing two over the course of two years was not too bad.

The farm is an uncomfortable place in the winter. The sky is gray, the ground is barren with the refuse from last year’s crops, making people huddle inside by the warmth of the hearth, and animals huddle in the coop and goat house, sharing the warmth from each other.

The storm, winds and cold came as predicted followed by a second snow storm. After the second storm tapered off, on Feb. 18, Jim was cleaning up the coop and the goat house and went to put some material in the composter.

Farmers know that compost “cooks.” Deep in the center of any compost pile, if it is working as we expect, it is warm. And within that compost pile, the ingredients that eventually become nourishing soil are breaking down.

When Jim went to add to the compost, he expected a little warmth, but what he didn’t expect was a healthy energized chicken! His neck-breaking skill must have eroded over the years, leaving a sick but alive chicken in the protected warmth of the nourishing compost for about 11 days. Jim, who loves his chickens, had fortuitously put the chicken in the intensive care unit of his farm. The bright golden brown chicken, now known as Nemo, is now happy and healthy and back to the business of laying eggs.

Too often, perhaps, we give up on each other, when a little warmth and nourishment may make all the difference.

Tags: HACbeat, Community Green, housing assistance corporation, Housing on Cape Cod

Waldorf School Students Visit HAC’s Curio House at Community Green

Posted by Julie Wake on Mon, Nov 26, 2012 @ 09:00 AM

curio tour resized 600
“Houses of the Past, Present and Future” was the theme of a recent block in teacher Kim Allsup’s third-grade class at the Waldorf School of Cape Cod.

“So, I was thrilled when Adrienne Danner of HAC told us that a house of the future, Curio House, is here on Cape Cod and that we could visit,” Allsup said. Curio House is the energy-efficient home that is the first residence at HAC’s Community Green in Sandwich.

Allsup said her class prepared for their field trip by studying the science and importance of solar energy. “We went into the playground at school on a sunny day and touched objects that had been warmed by the sun, including a brick wall, black hinges, grass, pavement and black, plastic composters. Then we worked together to list these from the warmest to the coolest. (The black metal hinges were warmest and the grass was coolest.)

“We also had a homework assignment in which students had to say what fuel was used in their homes and how it arrived (oil in trucks, gas in pipes, wood in trucks.) We talked about how each of these forms of fuel produces waste when burned.

“During our visit to Curio House it was easy for the children to understand the principle of passive solar heat since they had all felt the warm hinges and the warm brick wall at school. And, it was impressive that this little house of the future would produce far less waste than houses of today because there would be no oil trucks or wood trucks necessary. In addition to touring the house and hearing a description of how it operates from Mr. MacDougall, we also enjoyed visiting with the goats and the chickens. We thank HAC, Adrienne Danner and Jim MacDougall for our visit to Curio House.”

Tags: Community Green, housing assistance corporation, Housing on Cape Cod, Affordable Housing Development on Cape Cod, Curio House