Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Nutrition Workshop Brought to Village at Cataumet

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 @ 03:45 PM
Cataumet Nutrition Photo-1.jpgCooking Matters' Catherine Cleary (middle) with Margaret Peters (left), administrative support at The Village at Cataumet, and facility director Paula Mallard. 

At HAC’s family shelters, the goal is to not only house clients, but to give them the tools to care for themselves and their children. Nutrition is a key part of this equation and recently HAC welcomed Catherine Cleary, program manager for Cooking Matters, to The Village at Cataumet to provide a handful of parents with the skills necessary to ensure their children are fed healthy meals at home.

“It’s not about teaching people,” Cleary said about the aim of the initiative, which she has brought to food pantries, public libraries, Head Start programs, and family shelters throughout Massachusetts. “It’s about building confidence in caregivers of young children.”

For a little more than an hour, Cleary engaged mothers in a conversation about everything from shopping for nutritious foods to cooking those foods for their families, all while on a budget. She stressed that parents are the best judge of what choices to make. “You all know what is best for you and your family,” she said.

She began with simple advice – always make a list, for example - that can help clients with budgeting and keeping them better organized while shopping.

During her visit, Cleary touched upon several key areas that included how to choose produce, how to choose whole grain foods and why it matters, how to read the nutrition labels on the food packages, and why the unit price on food is important.

Shelter clients were interested in strategies for getting children to eat healthier. Cleary suggested cooking two types of vegetables, such as peas and carrots, and having the children decide what they want to eat.

In her house, Cleary said she will always have low-salt peanut butter, jelly, and whole wheat bread to make sandwiches for her children. “At least you have a couple of food sources there,” she said, which can then be combined with fruits and vegetables. “That’s more balanced than oodles of noodles.”

These were just a few of the tips Cleary had for clients to empower them to make healthier decisions when cooking affordable meals for their children. The session represented a first for the shelter and was something that its facility director, Paula Mallard, said provided practical skills to clients which they can begin applying immediately and continue to use once they transition into permanent housing.

Tags: Family Shelter, Paula Mallard, Village at Cataumet, education, Cooking Matters, Margaret Peters, nutrition

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

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. 

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

New Playground at Cataumet a Favorite with Kids

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 @ 01:00 PM
Cataumet Playground-2.jpgBoth HAC staff and The Village at Cataumet staff and clients were joined by representatives from Cape Cod Senior Residences during a dedication for the shelter's new playground last month. 

What do you get when you combine two swings, a climbing cargo net, a slide and a faux rock wall? A whole lot of fun.

That is exactly what kids at The Village at Cataumet have been having since a new playground arrived at the shelter in September. The set was paid for thanks to a donation from Cape Cod Senior Residences, an independent and assisted living community in Pocasset, following a casino night in June which raised more than $1,600 for the HAC shelter. Residents at the assisted living facility decided they wanted to use that money towards filling a need at The Village at Cataumet.

“They [the kids] love it,” said shelter director Paula Mallard, during a playground dedication in the beginning of October. “It is awesome. It’s really sturdy and going to last us a long time.”

Cataumet Playground-9.jpgChildren enjoying the new playground at The Village at Cataumet. 

Mallard said that it’s been a few years since the shelter had a usable playground. The last one was made of wood and had to be removed because it became unsafe for children.

As a small contingent of children swung, slid and climbed the playground, Michael LeBrun, executive director for Cape Cod Senior Residences, spoke about why this was an important gift for his organization. “I think it is great to be able to help the kids and be a part of the community,” he said.

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Tags: Family Shelter, homelessness, The Village at Cataumet, Paula Mallard, Cape Cod Senior Residences, Philanthropy, donations

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

Making Science Come Alive at Village at Cataumet

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 @ 02:39 PM
DSC 4223 resized 600  Is it safe? Noah cautiously touches a live horseshoe crab held by science instructor Kim Torres.

Officially summer did not start until June 21, but three days beforehand a group of more than a dozen parents and their children got a jump start on the hectic tourist season inside the confines of the community room at HAC’s family shelter the Village at Cataumet.

Though there was no sand or ocean water, the setting had all the signs of what summer means to many here on Cape Cod: the beach.

That was all due to a few unusual visitors – a horseshoe crab and several hermit crabs – that made their way into the HAC shelter thanks to a grant the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care awarded to the Bourne Early Childhood Council.

That money paid for a hands-on educational session led by Kim Torres, owner of the Chatham-based company Elements, Etc., which allowed children of all ages to get close and personal with a few lively sea creatures along with some much softer stuffed ones as well.

The most entertaining part of the hour and a half long workshop were the actual animals that Torres brought with her straight from Pleasant Bay.

The horseshoe crab was first as Torres gave some key facts about it before placing it on a small blue tarp in the center of the room where it maneuvered around the small feet of children standing over it.

“See the long tail?” she asked.

“Yeah!” the kids screamed.

“Everyone thinks there is poison in it, but there is not,” she said, explaining that the tail is used by the horseshoe crab as a swimming mechanism.

DSC 4218 resized 600

“This is the way to hold him,” she said, with her hands on the side of the animal.

Though horseshoe crabs look “scary,” Torres said, “they are very gentle.”

And they are important to humans, currently being used as part of cancer research. “We are close to finding a cure for cancer because of their blood,” Torres said.

Torres also showcased much smaller hermit crabs which Paula Mallard, director of the Village at Cataumet, shied away from. “Those are creepy,” Mallard laughed. “I can touch the other one, but those are just creepy.”

Even some children – like Krista Hansen’s one-year-old son Noah - were initially reluctant to get too close to the animals. Eventually, Noah summoned up the courage to touch the horseshoe crab’s shell.

“That little one, he was scared during the first part of the show,” Torres said later. “It is nice to see them overcome that fear and get excited and actually learn more about science.”

Hansen, whose four-year-old son Matthew also took part in the educational workshop, was thrilled to see her kids interacting with real creatures found on Cape beaches. “I love this,” she said. “It is cool to see my kids having fun.”

At one point she even got in the act, touching the horseshoe crab after which she joked, “I want one as a pet now.”

Along with the live animals Torres had a variety of dried and stuffed animals on display including a sea star, sponges and a plush horseshoe crab. And she gave children the opportunity to color a picture of a seahorse as well as a shark.

“I think this is great,” Mallard said. “The kids are having fun and it is educational.”

The fact that children enjoyed the experience was a reward for Torres who hoped this may inspire them to explore their natural surroundings. “Most kids don’t know this is out there and that these are animals they are living with,” she said, adding that through classes like this, “they can appreciate nature and start to notice the stuff around them.”

DSC 4229 resized 600

Tags: HAC, science, Paula Mallard, Kim Torres, Village at Cataumet, education