Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Westwood Troop Donates Bikes to Village at Cataumet

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Aug 21, 2017 @ 04:20 PM
Cataumet Bicycles-1.jpgWestwood Girl Scouts Tessa Scolaro (from left), Maggie Fahey, Jade Landolphi, and Laurel Barnett with HAC’s Paula Mallard. 

Bicycling is one of the simplest and most effective modes of transportation and thanks to the generosity of Girl Scout Troop 75006 of Westwood, clients at The Village at Cataumet now have the ability to use them both for fun and for more practical means.

The scouts – Laurel Barnett, 13, Maggie Fahey, 14, Jade Landolphi, 14, and Tessa Scolaro, 13 - donated a total of 14 bicycles, nine helmets and two bike pumps to the shelter in May. The donations were a mix of children’s and adult bikes; all but one was used and had been checked over by staff at Landry’s Bikes in Norwood or Common Wheels in Allston.

As part of the donation, Arthur Diangelis of Art’s Bike Shop in North Falmouth, has agreed to provide any reasonable repairs over the next two years. And the troop will pay for any smaller replacement parts, including tire tubes or brake pads, that may be needed for those repairs.

As to why the group chose The Village at Cataumet, Troop Leader Amy Barnett said, that they either vacation in this part of Cape Cod or have homes here.

Her daughter said they decided the shelter would be a good fit because the clients lack the means to get to places. “We felt it was important to have bikes for transportation for adults,” Laurel said.

Paula Mallard, the facility director at The Village at Cataumet, said as part of the project the children had an opportunity to learn about the shelter and the people it serves. During those discussions, Mallard told them that many clients have no real way to get around which led to the bike donation. Any client can use the bicycles which will remain the property of the shelter.

Amy Barnett said the project was a rewarding one for the scouts. “I hope they learned that even though they are young, if you have a good idea, you have the ability to actually make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.

Tags: Family Shelter, Paula Mallard, Village at Cataumet, donations, charitable giving

Local Teens Connect with Children at Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 @ 04:33 PM
Angel House Playgroup-1.jpgVolunteer Molly Rudman (left) plays with one of the children at HAC's Angel House shelter. 

Living in a shelter can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially trying for older children, in part, because they don’t have the luxury of inviting friends over to hang out after school.

But a group of local students, led by Francesca Galazzi, 16, changed that the second half of this past school year. Joined by her sister Michela, 14, and their friends Molly, 16, and Halle Rudman, 15, and Joy McCarthy, 14, the group would spend an hour nearly every Saturday, from March to June, playing with children at HAC’s Angel House shelter in Hyannis.

They planned activities in advance, running them by facility director Lin Rohr. On Mother’s Day weekend, they made cupcakes. On other days, the activity was a little less structured with the group playing on the shelter’s swing set and running around outside.

“I’d be upstairs in my office and I’d hear laughing, giggling, the kids yelling, ‘I’m going to get you,’” Rohr said. “It was a positive experience, not only for the kids who live here, but for all the volunteers.”

Beyond that, Rohr said, it served as an opportunity for children outside of a homeless shelter to connect with those living in one. “For the teenaged volunteers, it breaks down any stereotypes they had about what homelessness looks like,” Rohr said.

One of the teenagers living at Angel House said the Saturday play groups were important to him because it allowed him to socialize with his peers. “Instead of having older volunteers, these ones are our age and we can play with them,” he said. For him that meant games of chess, playing cards and showing them his magic tricks.

“Everyone has different paths, but you can all help each other and have fun,” Francesca said of what she has learned from the experience. And despite being from disparate backgrounds, she said, “we always have fun together. They are really cool kids.”

While Francesca, Michela, Molly, Halle and Joy all took the summer off, they plan on renewing their Saturday play dates at Angel House once school begins in September.

Tags: Family Shelter, Angel House, HAC Volunteers, Lin Rohr

Sandwich Church Holds Donation Drive for Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Jul 05, 2017 @ 02:55 PM
First Church-Edited.jpgMarilyn Dexter (left) and Judy Coppola with a few of the donations that First Church in Sandwich donated to HAC's Angel House shelter. 

Giving comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. This past spring, it arrived at HAC in several bags full of diapers, baby wipes, pillows and blankets.

These gifts, all courtesy of First Church in Sandwich, were collected and donated to Angel House and the mothers and their children the HAC shelter serves. Each year, the church’s outreach committee selects a handful of local causes it wants to support; this year, they chose Angel House.

“It’s so important to give back to the community you live in,” said Marilyn Dexter, chair of the committee, who was joined by Judy Coppola in delivering the donations.

“Everything that you give, you get back,” Coppola added.

The church wants to continue supporting Angel House and has plans to plant a small garden there this summer.

Donate to Angel House

Tags: Family Shelter, Philanthropy, Fundraising, Angel House, First Church Sandwich

Marstons Mills Second Grader Spreads Joy to Kids in Shelter

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Jun 21, 2017 @ 11:49 AM
Jacob Rosell Photo-1-1.jpgDawn Rosell with her son Jacob, who collected several boxes full of toys, books and stuffed animals for children in HAC's shelters. 

Inside Dawn Rosell’s car was a trunk full of Dr. Seuss books, puzzles, board games and stuffed animals. It was every child’s dream though her own son, Jacob, decided he would rather give them to someone in need rather than keep them for himself.

“I like helping other people,” was his explanation when he dropped off those donations to HAC in the middle of last month. Over the course of two weeks, the West Villages Elementary School second grader collected more than six boxes of books and toys and two bags of stuffed animals that will be given to children in HAC’s family shelters.

His mother said Jacob was motivated to organize the drive following a Fun Run at his school to raise funds for playground equipment. “He decided he wanted to do something here in our community,” she said. “It was very inspiring to me. It makes me feel so proud that he wanted to do something to help other kids and people in need.”

Tags: Family Shelter, fundraiser, charitable giving

Barnstable High Grads Give Back to HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 06, 2017 @ 01:12 PM
Barnstable High Book Donation-Edited-1.jpgBarnstable High School grad Lauren Hansen (middle) with HAC's Lynne Perry (left) and Jodi Keegan with a few of the books she collected and donated to children in HAC's family shelters.  

When it comes to the country’s civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges was a seminal figure in advancing equal opportunities for African-Americans, becoming the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South in the fall of 1960.

In doing so, Bridges helped open doors to educational and literacy programs not previously offered to minorities.

In their final months as students at Barnstable High School, seniors Lauren Hansen and Rachel Madore learned about Bridges’ contributions to society in their Understanding Diversity class taught by Michele Netto. The pair then turned the lessons of Bridges’ life story into action, collecting used children’s books that were donated to HAC in the middle of last month.

The books will be given to children in HAC’s shelters. Hansen said she and Madore wanted to utilize books as a way to empower HAC’s clients and enrich their lives.

Tags: Family Shelter, Books, donations, charitable giving, Barnstable High School

Cotuit Church Gives Back to Village at Cataumet

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 11, 2017 @ 12:08 PM
Cataumet Easter-18.jpgMary Kjendal (from left), Mircea Dumitrescu and Lindsay Clough were a few of the parishioners from St. Michael the Archangel Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cotuit who organized an Easter-themed party for children at The Village at Cataumet last month. 

To someone living in shelter, a few moments of normalcy can be a gift. And once a month at the Village at Cataumet, a group of parishioners from St. Michael the Archangel Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cotuit, share that gift to children living in the Bourne shelter.

It comes in the form of a few hours of play.

Last month, the itinerary looked like this: decorating Easter-themed cookies followed by a visit from the Easter bunny followed by an Easter egg hunt outside. If it sounds like fun, that’s because it was.

“They do such a great job and organize such fun activities,” said Paula Mallard, facility director at the Village at Cataumet. “It is fun for the families and a nice change of pace for them.”

Over the past year, the church has been scheduling monthly activities at the shelter which are geared towards children. Last summer, they organized a cookout for the clients. And in February, each child decorated a picture frame with their picture in it which was given to their parents.

“I like interacting with the kids,” said nine-year-old Mary Kjendal from St. Michael. “It is really fun making them happy.”

As he hid Easter eggs outside, Sturgis Charter Public School sophomore Mircea Dumitrescu said he enjoys the church’s monthly visits to the Village at Cataumet because they give him an opportunity to help others.

His mother, Soraya Bandeli, said the monthly outings teach the children a key life lesson – don’t judge others.

Perhaps most importantly, she said, it allows the church to offer a brief respite for what is often a chaotic time for those in shelter. “It’s a nice atmosphere where it is just pure joy for the kids,” she said. 

Support The Village at Cataumet

Tags: Family Shelter, The Village at Cataumet, Paula Mallard, Philanthropy, St. Michael Archangel Antiochian Orthodox Church

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

Chatham Store Knits Blankets for HAC's Shelter Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 04, 2017 @ 11:00 AM
Great Yarn-2.jpgA Great Yarn owner Mary Weishaar (from left), store employee Antonia DaSilva, knitter Jean Williams, WCVB cameraman Isaiah Bradwell, WCVB reporter Erika Tarantal, HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi, and knitter Barbara Gibson at last month's WCVB taping in Chatham. 

A handmade blanket symbolizes warmth, care and compassion. And this month, A Great Yarn delivered more than 150 such blankets to HAC that will provide just that to our families in shelter.

The donations were tied to a community knit-a-thon organized by the Chatham yarn shop and bookstore and its owners Ron and Mary Weishaar. This is now the second year the Weishaars have mobilized their customers who have knit individual panels that have been turned into blankets for those most in need in the community. Last year, the grassroots effort resulted in 29 blankets and $1,500 donated to HAC.

This year, the store far exceeded those numbers, partially the result of the story being publicized in the Cape Cod Times and the Cape Cod Chronicle. Last month, it found its way onto WCVB Channel 5’s “Five For Good” segment which highlighted what the project meant to the knitters. “It’s just a gift from the community to folks that need help,” Mary told WCVB reporter Erika Tarantal.

“I think this speaks to the good of human beings,” HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi said, during the taping in Chatham. “To think that the people were at home, by themselves, knitting and thinking of our clients is so heartwarming and impressive.”

This year’s effort began in February with roughly 400 knitters – some were experts, others were novices – participating. “I just love doing it because it’s for such a good cause, and it’s relaxing and fun,” said knitter Barbara Gibson of Chatham.

With Cape Cod experiencing the “perfect storm of high real estate prices and low wages,” Galazzi said, this type of gesture – putting one’s talents into making a necessary household item like a blanket – can have great meaning to the recipients who are struggling to move forward with their lives.

“We have people who come to us with nothing. They walk in with literally the clothes they are wearing. And then we have people, their car is full, and they’re homeless and living out of their car,” Galazzi said. “To have a special handmade blanket for these people, whether they have some stuff or have nothing, it’s just the idea of the community coming together, supporting them and helping them.” 

Tags: Family Shelter, donations, A Great Yarn, Alisa Galazzi, charitable giving, WCVB, knit-a-thon, Mary Weishaar, Ron Weishaar

Former Shelter Client Serves as Example to Others

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 @ 12:01 PM
Victoria-1.jpgVictoria Chase (right) with her advisor at Cape Cod Community College, Dr. Colleen Coughlin. Dr. Coughlin said that Chase has served as an inspiration to her. 

If you had visited Cape Cod Community College on the second Wednesday of last month, there would have been nothing discernible about Victoria Chase. She was not unlike any of her fellow students on campus, preparing for midterm exams in the two classes she is taking this semester, 3D Mechanical Design and Human Communications. Perhaps the only difference between Chase and her classmates was the smile that graced her face as she walked from her design class to her advisor Dr. Colleen Coughlin’s office.

There is a reason for that smile. A little over two years ago, Chase never could have imagined she would be where she is today, a proud mother of two children, balancing two part-time jobs as she works towards a degree in civil engineering. Somehow she also manages to lead two recovery groups on Cape Cod for those who are going through similar struggles that she did prior to arriving at Angel House in the summer of 2015.

“At my lowest, I was sleeping in my car with my kids,” Chase said, the result of an addiction to drugs.

By the time she entered Angel House, she had spent nine months without her children who were living with her mother and grandmother. Four days later, she was reconnected with them. “It was a tough transition for me,” Chase recalled. “I think I cried every day for a month and a half.”

Slowly, the pain subsided and Chase began the path towards healing. Over the course of the next 12 months, she was able to maintain her sobriety with the support of Angel House staff and the stability that the shelter provided her.

A New Direction for Chase
In April 2016, she landed a job at Home Depot in Hyannis, where she currently works as the lead cashier. Three months later, she graduated from Angel House, but remained on-site, living in one of two transitional apartments with her children. She is now living in an apartment in Hyannis, utilizing an MRVP housing voucher to pay a portion of her rent.

Having housing, Chase said, “is huge. It means I have a place to call home. It means stability… The number one thing you need to move forward is a roof over your head.”

Last fall, she enrolled at Cape Cod Community College, earning a 4.0 in her first semester. Her goal is to one day engineer and design buildings that fit within the landscape of cities and towns. Her story “is amazing,” said Dr. Coughlin. “It is so impressive to me the adversity she has been through and what she has overcome.”

Angel House shelter director Lin Rohr agreed. “The transformation from when she came to now, you wouldn’t recognize her,” Rohr said. “She has just taken off and blossomed in an incredible way. It gives them [current clients] a living example of hope. It’s like, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”

It’s something Chase is immensely proud of and it’s why if you see her on campus at Cape Cod Community College, she’ll most likely have a smile on her face. “I always knew I was meant for something better. I never felt like my life should be spent living in a car,” she said. “Now I have an opportunity to do what I want to do… And I get to give my kids the life they deserve which is pretty awesome.”

Donate to Angel House

Tags: Family Shelter, homelessness, Angel House, homeless shelters, Victoria Chase

St. Peter's Pantry: Osterville Church Supports HAC's Shelter Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 @ 07:45 AM
St Peters Edited-1-1.jpgMary Beebe (from left), Bob Bartholomay, Katherine Levinson and Gretchen Perry are a few of the parishioners from St. Peter's Episcopal Church who donate food to families in HAC's Scattered Site shelter program. 

On the last Friday of February, several boxes of non-perishables were delivered to HAC’s Scattered Site shelter in Hyannis. There were cans of beans, carrots and peas, an assortment of cereals, pastas and sauces as well as some bed sheets, pillowcases and wash cloths, all courtesy of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Osterville.

It may not seem like much, but to the 17 families who are the recipients of this generosity, it will make a world of difference. “It is a big help. A huge help,” said HAC case manager Geoffrey Gagnon.

“It means a lot because they always run out of food stamps each month,” added case manager Antoinette Bills.

About once a month, the church delivers the donations, filling the cupboards of a small kitchen adjacent to the offices where Gagnon, Bills and Katie Geissler, the director of HAC’s Scattered Site program, work. Their office is on the first floor of one of the shelter buildings in Hyannis, that houses 11 families.

Parishioners have been collecting and delivering the donations, which consist primarily of food, since the end of 2015. Because of their dedication, the kitchen has been given its own nickname: St. Peter’s Pantry.

A Desire to Do More

Several years prior to the monthly offerings, the church had put together Thanksgiving baskets for families staying at the shelter. Mary Beebe of Cotuit said she and her fellow parishioners realized they wanted to do more.

“I like this because it gives everybody a chance in the church to participate, no matter what their age is,” Beebe said. “And people seem to embrace it with enthusiasm so that is very nice too.”

Among those who have embraced the effort is Bob Bartholomay of Centerville, who has dropped off recent donations to the shelter. “I like the idea that we’re helping people,” Bob said. “I think it’s tough to live on the Cape. Property values are high and you know there is a lot of affluence, but sometimes we don’t see there are people in need.”

Both Gagnon and Bills said the donations help fill the gap for those in need who are struggling to get by, serving to augment their food stamps and the additional food they receive from area food pantries.

As an example, Gagnon said, one client receives only $60 a month in food stamps for him and his 3-year-old son. “He loves beans with his hot dogs so we’ll stash beans aside for him to supplement his dinner,” he said. “This tides them over and gets them through some tough times.”

While church parishioners have not met the recipients of their kindness, they are taking satisfaction in knowing they are helping others. “Even though it is pretty small, I think people are really kind of proud of the pantry,” said Beebe.

Help End Homelessness

Tags: Family Shelter, Philanthropy, donations, Scattered Sites, charitable giving, St. Peter's Pantry, St. Peter's Episcopal Church