Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial: Optimism for our Future

Posted by Alisa Galazzi on Thu, Mar 09, 2017 @ 04:05 PM

Galazzi Photo-2.jpg

It has been a whirlwind—in the best way. I have spent the past two months getting to know the staff and dozens of programs at HAC. Each day, I have been amazed at the range of services that this agency accomplishes, the programs that lift people up and build community here on Cape Cod.

Rick Presbrey has built HAC into one of the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit social service agencies on Cape Cod. I am honored to have been chosen to take the reins of the agency and continue the good works that HAC is known for throughout the region.

HAC not only runs four family shelter programs—housing 174 families last year alone—but also runs the largest rental assistance program in the region, with over 1,100 households. Our homeless prevention program ensured 198 families did not become homeless last year. Our Energy and Repair department continues to help families save money by making homes more energy efficient. Our Housing Consumer Education classes and counseling supported everyone from seniors whose homes were at risk of foreclosure to young couples looking to purchase their first home.

I am looking forward to getting to know you, HAC’s supporters. Your support makes these programs possible and your input is important. As we assess HAC’s programs and their impact, I’d like to hear what you think.

There is a lot of work to be done and it is a challenge I welcome. Working with the HAC staff and with others throughout our community, I know we can make strides, together.

Tags: Alisa Galazzi, Affordable Housing on Cape Cod, HAC, homeless prevention, Family Shelter

Cape Family Goes From Homelessness to Housing

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Mar 02, 2017 @ 04:09 PM
HAC Richard Photo.jpgLast month, HAC's Al DiMuzio (right) donated a recliner to Richard as a way to provide stability to his living situation. 

On the first day of the new year, 57-year-old Richard and his two teenage boys became homeless. “That’s when I had to make the choice of living in our car or in a motel room,” he said. “It was so unbearable, especially with the children. It was very stressful.”

The slide into homelessness was relatively sudden for Richard, who had lived in Bourne for over 44 years. It started with the death of his 84-year-old mother Jean in October. He and his children had moved in with her several years ago and he was serving as her caretaker.

“It was devastating,” he said, noting it was particularly difficult for his children who had already lost their own mother. “When she [their grandmother] passed, they were very sad. Very sad. She had been like their mother in a way.”

His mother’s death was compounded by the fact that she had taken out a reverse mortgage on her house. Richard, who is on disability, was unable to pay back the loan so the bank seized the home.

“So we became homeless,” Richard said.

Nearly all of their belongings were gone. Richard was able to keep some family photos and personal keepsakes as well as his father’s military records and medals.

They even had to temporarily relinquish their boxer Bruno who had been a part of their family for nearly seven years, letting a friend take him in. Through the entire ordeal, Richard said, his children were most worried about their dog. “They have known him since they were little kids,” he said.

Initially, the family stayed a few nights in a motel before Richard quickly ran out of money. With the assistance of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development, they were placed in a shelter in Fall River. Though he was appreciative of having a safe place to sleep, Richard admitted that, “it wasn’t the same as living in our own house.”

Family Transitions Out of Shelter

In February, Richard was able to transition out of shelter and into a rental house in Bourne. He was connected to HAC and has been working with Housing Specialist AnnMarie Torrey who helped secure him $8,000 in HomeBASE funds through the state. Those funds are given to families in shelter or to families who are at imminent risk of homelessness as a way to stabilize their housing.

Roughly half of that has gone to pay his first and last month’s rent as well as the security deposit. The remainder will be used to pay a portion of his monthly rent as Richard’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will cover the rest. It leaves the family, Torrey said, in a tenuous financial position as he will have little additional money to spend on food and other necessities each month.

Thanks to HAC’s Welcome Home Gift Basket Program (see page 7), Torrey was able to provide him with basic household necessities such as bed sheets and kitchen appliances. HAC staff have done their part with Quality Control Inspector Jim Ames donating a used couch and Al DiMuzio, director of the agency’s Energy and Repair Department, a used recliner to help furnish the family’s home. “I have always found that helping is better than not, and sometimes synchronicity works in strange ways,” DiMuzio said. “So, for Richard, his need for a chair just happened to fit my desire to do a little downsizing.”

Torrey is working with him to find a part-time job that can increase his income to add even more security to his housing situation.

All of this has Richard feeling grateful for HAC’s support. “They have been indispensable,” he said. “If HAC didn’t help, I don’t know where we would be right now.”

Torrey is hopeful that Richard and his family will never have to experience the horrors of homelessness again. “Being in shelter really scared him and the boys,” she said. “He told me he is determined that he will never be in that position again and that is pretty much 90% of it – determination and having the will to succeed.”

Help End Homelessness

Tags: homelessness, HomeBASE, AnnMarie Torrey, housing, Family Shelter, shelter