Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Davison Retires After 29 Years at HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, May 12, 2017 @ 12:29 PM

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Roughly three decades ago, Nancy Davison was struggling to make ends meet as she raised her son Brendan and daughter Kelly here on Cape Cod. “At that time I was working three jobs and I really couldn’t afford a year-round rental, but I took it anyway,” she said. “One night, I remember coming home from my third job – I was teaching real estate – and I just lost it. I didn’t know how I could keep this going.”

And then two things happened that stabilized her life – she was approved for a Farmers Home Administration loan and was hired at HAC as a program representative in its Leased Housing Department. “Within three months’ time I went from almost being homeless and working three jobs to coming to Housing Assistance Corporation and buying my own house,” she said.

That was in 1988. Twenty-nine years later, Davison has remained in that South Dennis home. But at the end of February, she said goodbye to HAC, where she has been able to help those who were dealing with similar issues that she was when she first arrived here.

During her farewell luncheon, HAC founder Rick Presbrey said Davison was an invaluable asset, the type of employee he could tap to manage and find ways to improve any department at HAC. Over the course of her career, Davison oversaw HAC’s Leased Housing Department, Consumer Education Department and, finally, its Energy and Repair Department.

Those experiences have colored Davison’s thoughts on HAC’s wide-ranging impact on the region. “There have been hundreds of thousands of people who we’ve helped in so many different ways. The list just doesn’t end because of the number of different things we do,” she said. “From tenants to homebuyers to homeowners to landlords to developers, there really isn’t a segment of the population that we haven’t helped in some way.”

What Davison discovered during her time here is that HAC helped her as much as it helps those it serves. “This is where I really found myself, what my values are and what my passions are,” she said. “I didn’t have an extended family. It was always myself and my children so this place really became my foundation. I was very passionate about my work and I loved the people I was working with.”

Tags: Nancy Davison, HAC Energy, Rick Presbrey, retirement, Leased Housing

Annual Meeting Celebrates Rick Presbrey's Legacy

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Apr 06, 2017 @ 04:15 PM
2017 Annual Meeting-44-1.jpgHAC founder Rick Presbrey with new HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi. During her speech at HAC's Annual Meeting, Galazzi acknowledged Presbrey's efforts, saying, "None of us would be here if it weren't for you." 

Housing is the foundation upon which all of our endeavors stem from. “Home is where we make our dreams come true,” new HAC Board Chair Mark Forest said. “Home is where we launch our lives. And it is the mission of HAC.”

That mission and the man behind it – HAC founder Rick Presbrey, who retired at the end of January – were celebrated at the agency’s 43rd Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition held last month at the Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis.

Forest, who succeeds outgoing Chair David Augustinho, was one of several to recognize Presbrey’s contributions at HAC’s Annual Meeting. He relayed one story from the early 1980s when a group of people approached Presbrey wanting to create a nonprofit that eventually became the Community Development Partnership in Eastham.

“Rick’s response was, ‘Good idea. How can I help?’” Forest said. “If you went to Rick over the years that is what he would say, ‘Good idea. How can I help?’ For every one of his [accomplishments] we touch or reflect on tonight, there are dozens of others that people don’t even know about.”

New HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi spoke about the importance of her predecessor’s work as it relates to the agency’s services. “We all know that housing is where everything starts,” she said. “Nothing can be accomplished without having a safe, affordable house.”

Presbrey, who started HAC in 1974, said his was a career that was focused on helping people. “We never said no to a need ever,” he said. “We helped as many people as we could. The number now is over 160,000 people. Every one of those that we helped is incredibly important.”

Annual Meeting-10.jpgIn his speech, HAC founder Rick Presbrey (center) acknowledged longtime HAC staffers Michael Sweeney and Nancy Davison who both retired in the past year. 

That work continues under Galazzi’s leadership and guidance. During the night, she called on the community’s support, stressing that “it is going to take all of us” to address Cape Cod’s housing issues.

Among those heeding that call are businesses and organizations like the Cape and Islands United Way, Emerald Physicians and Cape Save which were all honored at HAC’s Annual Meeting.

“The incredible amount of work that goes on through the employees of HAC and its programs is an essential prescription for the health of our community,” said Dr. Kumara Sidhartha, who accepted this year’s Volunteer of the Year Award on behalf of Emerald Physicians.

Barbara Milligan, president of the United Way which was the recipient of the Human Services Partner Award, eagerly accepted Galazzi’s challenge. “Let’s get this problem solved,” she said. “Let’s work on it together.”

HAC also honored Michael Princi, who has served as the agency’s lawyer for 40 years and organized a holiday gift basket party for children in shelter for the past 25 years, as well as longtime board member Edgar Mangiafico, who was the recipient of this year’s Presbrey Public Service Award.

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Cape Save was the recipient of the Business Partner of the Year Award. The Yarmouth-based company insulates low-income homes for HAC's Energy and Repair Department. 

Tags: HAC Annual Meeting, HAC Volunteer Recognition, HAC Energy, Michael Princi, Rick Presbrey, HAC Volunteers, Alisa Galazzi, Ed Mangiafico, Cape and Islands United Way, Cape Save, Emerald Physicians

HAC Selects Al DiMuzio to Helm Energy and Repair Department

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 @ 12:45 PM
Al DiMuzio Edited.jpgAl DiMuzio, the new director of HAC's Energy and Repair Department. 

Imagine living in a home without any electricity or running water. For HAC’s Al DiMuzio, he didn’t have to imagine it. He actually experienced it, roughly 35 years ago.

“When I first moved to Maine and bought a property, I lived off the grid to understand how those things can be extras,” he said. “I had a well for water, candles and gaslights for lights and used a hand pump for the shower. I called it voluntarily simplicity. I had heard the term used and I liked it a lot. It was really a simpler life, not necessarily an easier one.”

While he eventually returned to the comforts we all enjoy, those early experiences in Maine have colored his work at HAC where he has served as an auditor for single-family and multi-family homes in the agency’s Energy and Repair Department for nearly seven years. “Within the context of this department, we have a lot of grateful clients and there’s a satisfaction in helping them not only reduce their energy costs, but making Cape Cod’s carbon footprint a little smaller since they’re saving a tremendous amount of electricity and saving gas and oil with the insulation we do,” he said.

In December, DiMuzio was given the opportunity to enact even greater change when he was named the interim director of the department. He will replace longtime staffer Nancy Davison who is retiring this year.

DiMuzio arrived at HAC in 2010 with four decades’ worth of experience in the construction industry that began on Nantucket in the early 70s following a stint in the U.S. Army. “From there I went to Maine and did all sorts of construction work including residential, commercial, federal jobs, sewer installations, foundations and framing, the whole nine yards,” he said.

DiMuzio, who grew up in Framingham, returned to Massachusetts in 1998 to be closer to family. He spent the majority of the next 11 years employed as a finish carpenter with E.J. Jaxtimer Builder before the economy collapsed in 2009. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Department of Veterans Affairs, DiMuzio was certified as a building analyst by the Building Professionals Institute, authorizing him to conduct energy audits. “Within six weeks the job was advertised here [at HAC] and I was interviewed and lucky enough to get it,” DiMuzio said.

While his initial focus was on single-family homes, the bulk of his work has been on auditing and weatherizing multi-family homes owned by local public housing authorities and landlords of affordable units.

Davison credited DiMuzio for overseeing HAC’s multi-family weatherization program. “When we went through a restructuring three years ago to separate out our multi-family work from single-family, Al was the first one who said, ‘Yes, I want to do it,’” Davison said. “That is the type of motivation he has. If anything comes up that’s a new function or responsibility, he is always the one who volunteers to do it.”

Beyond his resolute nature, Davison said, “he is extremely talented and passionate about helping people.”

In his new position, DiMuzio will continue being able to do just that. “I’m really excited to be able to step into this position and kind of drive the bus and see where we get,” he said.

To learn more about HAC's free energy audits or to schedule one for your home, call Cape Light Compact at 800-797-6699 or click the button below. 

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Tags: Energy Assessments, HAC Energy, saving energy, Energy Audit, Weatherization, Al DiMuzio

HAC's Michael Sweeney, a 35-Year Career Helping Others

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Nov 03, 2016 @ 05:36 PM
Michael Sweeney Edited-3.jpgMichael Sweeney reads one of the many cards he received from HAC staff at his retirement luncheon. 

A person’s life is filled with moments that can have a significant impact on their future. For HAC’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Sweeney, one of those moments occurred in 1972 when his younger brother James died due to heroin use. “I’ve never gotten over it and I never will,” Sweeney told his coworkers at a retirement party held for him at the end of last month. “I think that’s been something that’s always been there. And here at HAC we have helped so many people in similar situations… You look around and we’re helping people who have similar struggles and issues every day. Was that part of what attracted me and what kept me here, the human element of that? I think so.”

Eight years after his brother’s death, Sweeney found himself at HAC as a volunteer, installing energy saving products for seniors on Cape Cod. Sweeney arrived at the fledgling agency as a community organizer with VISTA, armed with a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from the University of Massachusetts.

A year after his arrival, Sweeney was hired part-time in the HAC Energy Department, parlaying that into a full-time position at the end of 1981. “I never believed I would be here 35 years later,” Sweeney said.

Just five days after he celebrated his 67th birthday, Sweeney was reflecting on a career that spanned over three decades, supporting HAC in its mission to ensure those on Cape Cod and the islands have access to safe, secure housing.

Nancy Davison, HAC’s vice president of program operations, said it is difficult to quantify Sweeney’s contributions to the agency and those it helps. “There’s so many and they are so diverse,” she said.

A Bit of Everything

Yes, Sweeney oversaw HAC’s contracts, the hiring of new staff, implementing employee benefits and managing finances. But he also did the little things like shoveling snow, fixing fellow coworkers’ cars and conducting general office maintenance.

HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said Sweeney did this in a quiet, unassuming way.

Over the years, Presbrey and Sweeney developed a close bond; they could often be found together on Saturdays, extending their work week an extra day just to help a HAC client in need, all on their own time.

Since 1981, Sweeney and Presbrey had a routine, working together on issues big and small which helped forge HAC into the agency it is today. This month, that routine has been broken as Sweeney starts the next chapter of his life.

In the short term, he and his wife Karen will be traveling to San Francisco for 10 days in November. A longer trip is planned to Switzerland, where Karen’s daughter, Kelsey, lives, and the Canary Islands in December.

Sweeney, who has two sons of his own, Patrick and Sean, anticipated that at some point in mid-January, “I’ll wake up and go, ‘What am I doing? What did I do?’” he laughed, half-jokingly.

Presbrey said that Sweeney’s passion not only for his work, but for his fellow colleagues and those HAC serves will be sorely missed. “You can’t really like this work unless you care about the outcomes and the people we’re helping,” Presbrey said. “Michael certainly has been a person who increasingly over these 35 years has cared more and more. You don’t always see that and it’s really been reassuring for me working next door to him.”

Tags: HAC Energy, Philanthropy, Rick Presbrey, Michael Sweeney

The Heart Behind HEARTWAP

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 @ 10:22 AM

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Often times there are acronyms for housing programs that don’t necessarily tell the entire story about how meaningful such a program can be for clients. And so it is with HEARTWAP, which stands for Heating Emergency Assistance Retrofit Task Weatherization Assistance Program.

On behalf of the state, HAC oversees HEARTWAP on Cape Cod and the islands. The figurative “heart” behind HEARTWAP is HAC’s Jo Ann Cournoyer.

Nancy Davison, HAC’s vice president of program operations, had high praise for Cournoyer’s work which “has resulted in people being safe and warm in their homes,” adding that HEARTWAP is “one of those hidden program gems which continues to provide valuable services because it is managed by a committed and competent HAC staff person.”

In April, Cournoyer celebrated her 10-year anniversary at HAC. “I love working at HAC and enjoy the tasks associated with my work,” Cournoyer said. For the past eight years, Cournoyer’s focus has largely been on managing the HEARTWAP program.

HEARTWAP provides emergency repairs and replacements of heating systems for homeowners who are receiving fuel assistance and whose income does not exceed 60 percent of the estimated state median income, equivalent to $33,126 for a one-person family; $43,319 for a two-person family; and $53,511 for a three-person family.

Cournoyer receives referrals from HAC’s energy auditors, other agencies and heating contractors. Once she receives permission from the homeowner to provide assistance, Cournoyer will set up a work authorization, sending a contractor to the home to determine if it’s a quick repair or more involved. Every situation is different, Cournoyer said, and could involve asbestos, mold or frozen pipes.

“The objective is to restore heat during emergencies and improve the efficiency of their heating system,” Cournoyer said, noting that the benefits of HEARTWAP is that “it helps with the economics of a client’s life… Heating system work is expensive.”

Last year, HAC was able to replace 45 heating systems, repair 193, clean and tune 218 and replace 26 oil tanks, work that these clients could not have paid for on their own.

To determine if you might quality for the HEARTWAP program, contact Jo Ann Cournoyer at 508-771-5400, ext. 106 or at jcournoyer@haconcapecod.org

Tags: Energy Assessments, HAC Energy, Jo Ann Cournoyer, HEARTWAP

Sturgis Charter Public School Students Lend a Hand at HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 @ 01:09 PM
describe the imageThe group of Sturgis Charter Public School students who volunteered their day at HAC.

Typically graduation is a time when students are the ones receiving gifts. But at the end of May, just three days before they were to receive their high school diplomas, a contingent of 11 Sturgis Charter Public School students spent their day giving back to the community by volunteering at HAC.

The group was one of 20 that used their second-to-last day as a high school student to make a positive difference in Hyannis – some cleaned up the town's beaches and others volunteered at the Salvation Army.

The students at HAC did basic office work: helping stuff donor letters in envelopes, moving boxes and compiling informational packets for the HAC Energy department.

And in the process they learned a little bit about what HAC does from several of its employees, prompting Lynn Kelley, a history teacher at Sturgis, to remark that this type of volunteerism can be rewarding for students, especially if it’s over a prolonged period of time. “When you get committed to an organization and start working with them you really feel like you are making a difference,” she said.

The time spent at HAC, Kelley said, was also valuable as it ties into the curriculum at Sturgis. “In terms of developing their self we want them to be active and productive members of the community,” she said.

With many of the students looking forward to college some such as Bridgette Isaacs, 18, and Skylar Beauregard, 18, are considering pursuing a career in the social services. 

Both revealed that they have had family members deal with substance abuse issues and were interested in becoming counselors to help those struggling with similar problems. “I think it is easy for someone who has been affected by it to be able to help others,” Skylar said. “And I’ve always enjoyed working with people.” 

Tags: volunteers, HAC, HAC Energy, volunteerism, volunteering, Sturgis Charter Public School