Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Cornell Students Learn Alongside HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 04, 2017 @ 01:19 PM
Cornell-1.jpgHAC Volunteer Coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin (left), HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi (third from right), and HAC Board Member Paul Melville (far right) with Cornell University’s Alicia Yang (from left), Piragash Swargaloganathan, Crystal Pascal, Luna Oiwa, Keenan Ashbrook and Sean Allen. 

At the beginning of last month, six Cornell University students spent four days learning about the importance of journaling, how to play the ukulele, and the basics of African dance and drumming, alongside HAC clients.

It was all tied to Cornell’s alternative spring break; for the past 13 years the Ivy League college has sent a small contingent of students to Cape Cod to learn about HAC’s work while helping to further the agency’s mission. This year the group took part in a collaborative learning process with clients at HAC’s Hyannis office as well as two of its family shelters, Carriage House in North Falmouth and the Village at Cataumet.

“Your questions and interest in HAC really invigorated the staff in ways we could not have predicted,” HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi told the group at their farewell dinner. “I really feel like the future is bright with you in it.”

That sentiment was reciprocated by the students who left impressed with the dedication and compassion that HAC staff showed towards their work. “Just seeing the passion for the work and the joy your staff has for helping people with knowledge, professionalism, and a warm heart is so inspirational to me,” Cornell freshman Alicia Yang said.

Trip leader Piragash Swargaloganathan, a sophomore at Cornell agreed, saying that the time spent at HAC was proof that people can affect positive change by pursuing a career in the social services.

Teaching Moments
The students said the specific workshops they took, from journaling to puppetry to playing the ukulele, had practical implications that could be applied to HAC’s programs. The group used puppets, for example, as a mechanism to teach children to read at the Village at Cataumet. “We found it was a bridge where we can go into their world,” Alicia said.

The ukulele, freshman Luna Oiwa said, “is an incredible stress reliever” and connected the Cornell students with the clients at Carriage House, as they came together, singing and strumming in harmony.

These specific moments spoke to a larger and more important lesson - “that we are all equal beings,” Piragash said.

“All the things we do are really universal,” something that freshman Keenan Ashbrook said he and his classmates learned through the journaling workshop taught by former Cape Cod Community President Kathleen Schatzberg.

Mary Wilson, who led the puppet workshop, also hosted the students with her husband at their Marstons Mills home. “I was able to witness a community come together,” she said of the week spent with the students. “Thank you for doing something for nothing. You are inspirational, thoughtful and socially-minded. I didn’t really know what I was expecting, but I’ve been so incredibly impressed with you.”

Tags: Cornell, alternative spring break, Cornell University, Family Shelter, Mary Everett Patriquin

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

HAC is on Instagram

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Sun, May 17, 2015 @ 09:15 AM

Instagram resized 600

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.

Tags: Julie Wake, Cornell, alternative spring break, Cornell University, HAC, social media, Instagram

HACbeat Editorial: Hope is the thing with Feathers

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Sat, May 16, 2015 @ 08:40 AM
DSC 7325 resized 600The 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.

Tags: Cornell, HACbeat, Cornell University, HAC, NOAH Shelter, hope

Staff Take Advantage of HAC Services

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, May 15, 2015 @ 01:19 PM

 

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.”

Tags: alternative spring break, HACbeat, Cornell University, HAC, Mary Everett Patriquin, Gael Kelleher, Ann Rebello

Rising from the Ashes: HAC's Stabilization Program

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, May 13, 2015 @ 11:11 AM
Charlene & Maryanne resized 600Charlene (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.

Tags: alternative spring break, HACbeat, Section 8, Cornell University, AnnMarie Torrey, HomeBASE, HAC