Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

The Village at Cataumet Gains a Garden

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 09, 2016 @ 12:47 PM
retouched_boy.jpgA young boy from The Village at Cataumet tends to the garden as staff, volunteers and clients fill the garden beds with compost and loam. 

You don’t [usually] see people who work at a place put so much care and attention into it. I think it is amazing.” That statement was made at the end of June by Jeff, a father staying at The Village at Cataumet, as he joined several staff members, clients and volunteers from Valley Farm Community Garden filling three newly installed garden beds in the rear of the shelter with a mix of compost and loam before planting an array of vegetables that included tomatoes, peas, spinach, kale, eggplant, squash, beets, cucumbers and herbs.

A little more than two months later, the garden is flourishing. Jeff has continued his involvement, watering the beds every day. And case manager Laura Kiernan is set to teach clients at The Village at Cataumet how to make a dish using eggplant.

“It is going great,” said Paula Mallard, the facility director at The Village at Cataumet. “It’s great that we have some fresh vegetables and fresh food for the clients.”

The garden is the latest of several improvements that have been made at the shelter in recent months; a new floor and refrigerator were installed in the kitchen earlier this year.

This project was spearheaded by members of the Valley Farm Community Garden, including Diane Speers, Carolee Packard, Joe Pacheco and Mike Ryan. As they worked to fill the beds, each measuring 36 square feet, with loam, Mallard spoke about the benefits it will provide for clients. “Gardening can be very therapeutic,” she said. “This can be a way people can relax and garden.”

Cataumet_Garden-8.jpgDiane Speers (from left), a volunteer from Valley Farm Community Garden, Paula Mallard, the facility director at The Village at Cataumet, and Jeff, a client at the shelter, fill the beds with loam and compost at the end of June. 

Among those who have taken to gardening is Jeff, serving as a perfect fit for one who has a landscaping and construction background. “I love helping out and I love keeping busy,” he said, as he helped set up the beds at the beginning of summer.

By then, he had only been at the shelter with his teenage daughter a little more than a week. “We lived with my mother and she ended up in a nursing home,” he explained, as to how he ended up homeless for the first time in his life at the beginning of June. For a short time, he and his daughter stayed in a tent in a friend’s backyard before he sought assistance from HAC.

The situation, he said, has been particularly difficult on his daughter. “I’m taking it one day at a time,” he said, as he looks to get back on his feet and out of shelter.

As they shoveled loam into wheelbarrows, both Pacheco and Ryan said they were grateful to do something to help those like Jeff out. “We’re giving something these people can use to help themselves,” Ryan said.

Packard expanded upon the benefits of the garden while volunteers and clients planted this summer’s vegetables. “When somebody is gardening, they are in touch with nature,” she said. “It also gives them mindfulness, peacefulness and the satisfaction that they have accomplished something.”

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Tags: homelessness, The Village at Cataumet, Paula Mallard, volunteerism, gardening, Valley Farm Community Garden, Laura Kiernan

Angel House Garden Implements Environmentally Friendly Practices

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Oct 17, 2014 @ 10:38 AM

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In order to create the garden at Angel House, staff needed compost and top soil. That material was donated to the shelter by Country Garden in Hyannis.

“It was very generous for them to do and an important thing for the garden,” said master gardener Mike Almonte, who helped oversee the project with the assistance of Angel House clients.

Next year the shelter will not need any such donation as Angel House has begun its own composting program thanks to Almonte’s help. “We cleaned out their composter and now they’re taking their vegetable scraps from the kitchen and recycling it,” he said. “Now that we’ve got them composting there will be less waste going to the landfills that we can put to use for their vegetable garden.”

Learn more about the Angel House garden by clicking here.

And help to make sure programs like these continue by supporting Angel House. You can make a donation by clicking here. Your donation helps HAC treat formerly homeless women, recovering from substance abuse, and their children staying at the shelter. 

Tags: Mike Almonte, Angel House, gardening, Country Garden

Angel House: It Starts With a Seed

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 @ 01:42 PM

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Plant a seed. Water it. And eventually that seed will turn into something beautiful.

That is exactly what 33-year-old Kristy, a client at Angel House, discovered this summer when she helped to take a barren stretch of land on the shelter’s property and transformed it into a garden complete with tomatoes, zucchini, squash, green beans, cucumber, parsley, iceberg lettuce, red hot peppers and basil.

“I absolutely love it,” Kristy said. “I loved watching it grow.”

Guiding her along the way was Mike Almonte of Yarmouth Port, a master gardener that Angel House staff found through the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension and who oversaw the project, assisting with everything from soil prep to the actual planting of the vegetables.

Kristy, who is from Western Massachusetts, arrived at Angel House a little over a year ago, pregnant with her daughter Lillian, now 11 months old. “So this is my home,” Kristy said. “This here is my family.”

That “family” has taught Kristy the skills necessary to being a parent as well as the tools to overcome the emotional scars of substance abuse. As of September she had been sober for 18 months.

But Angel House gave her something more. It gave her purpose; nearly every day starting in the spring she spent time outdoors, sometimes just her, alone with some gardening tools.

“When I started, there wasn’t even grass here,” Kristy said proudly. “We dug it up with some shovels, put some compost on here,” and planted some seeds and vegetables.

The end result is something she could never have imagined. Angel House now has a thriving garden, one that nourishes clients who use the vegetables in their daily meals.

“It has absolutely brought down our food budget,” Angel House family clinician Martha Woods said.

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And it has given Kristy not only a new skill – “I never gardened in my life before,” she admitted – but the knowledge that she can make a meaningful impact in her life.

Almonte hoped that Kristy, and others at Angel House, can take gardening with them once they leave the shelter. “It is something they did with their own two hands. I think it is great therapy,” he said. “They can keep a tiny garden with them wherever they go – put a tomato in one plant and a cucumber in another - and get tremendous enjoyment from that.”

“I think growing a garden is a metaphor for recovery,” said Angel House case manager Darby Moynagh. “If you plant a seed it will grow into a vegetable. And as a woman she is having her own growth. The most important thing this gave Kristy is the confidence that she can be successful.”

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Tags: Darby Moynagh, Mike Almonte, Angel House, gardening