In her spare time, Dolores Barbati-Poore likes to paint. She has over a dozen original paintings in her Bourne home, the result of the popular paint nights that allow friends to socialize, all while nurturing their creativity.
If Dolores were to create a painting that epitomized her nearly 28 years at HAC, it would most likely represent a picture of hope. “Dolores brought compassion, empathy and she never really gave up on people, some of whom were our toughest clients,” HAC’s AnnMarie Torrey said in describing her coworker. “She took a person at face value. There was never any judgment. She was always trying to save people, trying to help people.”
On the Friday before Thanksgiving, Dolores said farewell to a career spent helping people get the housing services they needed to move forward with their lives. Her time now will be spent with her husband, Edward, a retired glass artist, and her family. She has two children, John and Kara, who live in Bourne, and he has two children, James and Mary Ann.
Dolores first started with HAC in February 1989, processing Chapter 707 certificates with Michael Sweeney, before becoming an assistant to Allison Alewine. Her role at HAC quickly expanded; over the years, she was the family shelter director, helping the agency start the Village at Cataumet in Bourne. She retired as director of the agency’s Project Prevention program which provides emergency funding for those at risk of homelessness due to illness, loss of job or family crisis.
“If the agency was an arrow, she would represent the very tip of it,” said HAC CEO Rick Presbrey. “She is the one that penetrated the target and was able to provide counsel and assistance to even the most difficult clients to get them into housing.”
Having a job where she could affect real change was the most rewarding aspect of her time at HAC. “I’ve been so lucky to have a job where I can help people and get paid for doing it because I like helping people progress in life,” Dolores said.
Housing Assistance Corporation Blog
It is Monday morning and the office next to mine is empty. Looking in, there are lots of reminders of previous occupancy. A yellow pad with familiar handwriting. Family pictures not yet removed. Paint rubbed off the wall from the desk chair hitting it as the occupant moved around. The echo of my words, “Hey, Michael” still hangs in the air from my many calls to him for help in solving a problem or for his memory of past events. But he will be in to finish cleaning out his office. Something to look forward to.
After 35 years at HAC, Michael Sweeney retired on Friday. He was the Chief Operating Officer. He was good at a long list of things that I am not good at. And he was always here getting it done.
Can we go on without him? I know we can. People have left before. But it won’t be the same. How do you fill the void of decades of working together with less than five minutes total of even mildly angry words? How do you fill the space inside you that completely trusts someone and depends on that person to be here in all situations? How do you replace the emptiness inside where the steadiness and dependability of a human relationship used to be?
At his retirement party Friday night my wife reported that when talking about Michael, I said that he wasn’t really a friend. I don’t remember saying that but if I did say it I know why. For me a friend is someone you hang around with for the fun and camaraderie you receive from that friendship. In Michael’s case we shared some of that. But 99% of our relationship was about our work at HAC. Yes, we shared social time, sometimes during working hours and sometimes on weekends, but Michael was not central in our social circle and we weren’t part of his. With Michael we worked together every day. We solved problems together every day. We sat in each other’s office every day. We passed in the halls every day. We went to the dump together every Saturday and talked about work most of the time and family some of the time. We spent a lot more hours together than I ever have spent with a “friend.”
There must be another word that describes our relationship. People who serve in the military, particularly in battles, refer to those they were closest to and who they experienced difficult times with as their “buddies.” I have never understood that term, but maybe it applies to Michael and me.We certainly qualify as buddies. The buddy bond will always be there. That comforts me. But I miss his presence now.
|You can read more about Michael Sweeney's 35-year career at HAC and his contributions to those we serve by clicking this link.|
|Michael 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.”