Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

St. Pius Students Knit Blankets for HAC Clients

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 @ 02:23 PM
St. Pius Martin Family.jpgHAC's Mary LeClair (from left) with Maeve, Effie and Beatrice Martin. Maeve and her fellow St. Pius X classmates knit over 60 blankets for our clients in need. 

Every November, middle school students at St. Pius X School in Yarmouth try to better understand the plight of the homeless by spending a portion of one evening inside cardboard boxes set up in the gym.

This year, roughly 40 students turned that understanding into action by also knitting over 60 homemade blankets that will be given to HAC clients in shelter. Last month, St. Pius X eighth grader Maeve Martin, 13, dropped off those blankets with her mother, Katie Martin, and her two sisters Effie, 11, and Beatrice, 5.

“I like that we were able to do something nice for others,” Maeve said.

Her mother said the school project was rewarding because it taught children the importance of helping others. “It’s amazing how happy the kids felt helping someone else and stepping outside of themselves,” she said.

Give Hope to a HAC Client

Tags: St. Pius X School, Mary LeClair, blankets, shelter, Family Shelter, homelessness, Homeless on Cape Cod

DYECH Celebrates Fundraising Milestone

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Apr 07, 2017 @ 11:26 AM
DYECH Edited.jpgAt its meeting last month, DYECH presented HAC's Cassi Danzl with an $8,000 check which pushed its fundraising total to $1.5 million since the group's inception. The money has been used to prevent families on Cape Cod from becoming homeless.

In the grand scheme of things, $8,000 may seem like a relatively small amount of money, but in the beginning of March, it represented a major milestone for a group of residents committed to helping their neighbors in need.

When that donation was given to Cassi Danzl, HAC’s director of Family and Individual Services, it pushed the group, better known as the Dennis-Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH), over $1.5 million raised since it was formed in 1993.

HAC founder Rick Presbrey said the genesis of DYECH was “to prevent people from entering shelters and motels and keep them in housing,” an effort spearheaded by the late Bob Murray in conjunction with parishioners and staff at Christian churches in Dennis and Yarmouth that had reached out to HAC asking how they could support the agency.

And so DYECH was born. Golf tournaments, ham and bean dinners, chicken pot pie suppers and community concerts are just a few of the ways they have raised money to prevent homelessness on Cape Cod and the Islands over the past 24 years.

DYECH has also been able to raise funds from the bulk purchase of gift certificates to participating stores such as Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Whole Foods and CVS. It then sells those gift certificates at face value to those in the community. For every dollar spent, DYECH receives five percent that goes directly to HAC’s homelessness prevention efforts for families.

Debbie McDevitt-Hayes of Yarmouth, who has been involved with DYECH since the beginning, recalled that the late Art Kimber, a member of the clergy at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Yarmouth, and Deacon David Akin of St. Pius X Parish in South Yarmouth, were instrumental in the launch of DYECH and bringing neighboring churches into the fold.

DYECH’s Early Days
“Those early days were exciting days for sure,” she said, noting that it was less about the money raised and more about the number of families they were able to help. “HAC was good at keeping us posted as to putting a personal face on what was happening. Sometimes you’d meet some of the clients that you helped which was really exciting.”

As to DYECH reaching this fundraising milestone last month, she said, “I’m sure if we put the faces on that $1.5 million it would have a huge impact.”

Akin said the reason for the continued dedication to DYECH is simple: there are people in need. “They say that for 60 or more percent of Cape Codders, if one or two paychecks don’t come, the party is over,” he said. “There is a real hand-to-mouth economy for the have nots.”

“I think we all have to help each other,” said Yarmouthport’s Barbara Lussier, who manages the gift certificate program for DYECH. “Some of us are more fortunate than others, but I think it’s important for us to give back.”

While all agreed there is still more to do, current DYECH President Steve Sozanski was proud of all the group has accomplished. “It’s mind-boggling to think we’ve raised that much money organizing meals and concerts three or four times a year and buying and selling gift cards in bulk,” he said.

Presbrey agreed, calling DYECH’s work “amazing, actually. For them to do it all these years is impressive and also the energy with which they do it. They’ve kept up the program and prevented people from being homeless and keeping them in their current housing. It’s been a huge thing, really.”

To learn more about ways you can help prevent homelessness simply by purchasing a gift card to a local supermarket, store or restaurant, click this link.

You can also purchase gift cards at HAC's office at 460 West Main Street in Hyannis. Contact Margaret Benaka at 508-771-5400, ext. 272, or at mbenaka@haconcapecod.org for more information. 

Tags: DYECH, homeless prevention, Cassi Danzl, Project Prevention, homelessness prevention, Gift Cards for prevention, Steve Sozanski, Rick Presbrey, David Akin, Barbara Lussier, Debbie McDevitt-Hayes, St. Pius X School

St. Pius School Students Show Compassion for the Cape's Homeless

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Dec 05, 2014 @ 10:13 AM

DSC 6877 resized 600

At the St. Pius X School in Yarmouth, students have set some lofty career goals. One wants to be an actress. Another wants to be an author.

Sixth grader Ana Wolfe, 11, wants to one day live in Washington D.C. where she hopes to serve as an ambassador to Paris, France. Why? “Because I love to do ballet and there are a lot of good ballet companies there,” she said.

Not one said they wanted to be homeless.

And if one were to visit the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, the clients there would all admit that they never envisioned they would be homeless when they were the same age.

So on the Friday before Thanksgiving, those clients had some advice for a group of roughly 36 St. Pius students in fifth through eighth grade. They were simple, but powerful messages like:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Get an education
  • Have compassion for people
  • Pay it forward
  • Set goals you can reach

Those messages were delivered to the students by NOAH Shelter director Greg Bar who took part in the school’s first-ever Cardboard City project that was aimed at introducing the idea of homelessness to the children.

In the days leading up to the event, students decorated their own individual cardboard boxes with some, like sixth grader Mary Skordas, opting to write inspirational quotes like this one from Anne Frank:

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

And for a brief moment on one November night, students had a chance to empathize with the homeless by spending an hour in those boxes not long after having a basic meal of soup, sandwiches and fruit and hearing from Bar and Ginny Lewis of the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council for the Prevention of Homelessness (DYECH).

As to how people end up homeless, Bar said, it could be substance abuse, job loss or divorce. “There are a lot of situations out there and it is all sad. It is really sad,” he said. “When you end up at a place like the NOAH Shelter it is just the worst tragedy that has happened in your life.”

DSC 6865 resized 600Greg Bar addresses middle schoolers at St. Pius X School about homelessness on Cape Cod.

Maura Gogan, the business manager for St. Pius, served as the inspiration for the project based on a similar one she observed at a high school in Santa Clara, California, where she previously lived. There the students spent an entire weekend in a cardboard box to raise awareness and funds for the homeless situation in that West Coast city.

Having moved to Cape Cod two years ago, Gogan said, she was surprised to see so many homeless in this part of the state. She was hopeful that this project would inspire St. Pius students to “show compassion and empathize with the homeless,” she said. “Instead of ignoring them, they may now look at them as a person. And even if they can’t give them money, they can help them with a smile… Whatever they can give, hopefully they give from the heart.”

St. Pius teacher Christine Guzman took Gogan’s idea and ran with it, overseeing the students’ efforts which ended with some creating posters that will go in the NOAH Shelter and writing notes to shelter clients.

DSC 6879 resized 600

For at least one student, fifth grader Morgan Silva (pictured above), 10, the project was the start of something bigger.

His goal is to one day open a shelter like NOAH or, at the least, offer the homeless a place to stay for a night or two. “I think we can really do more than what we’re doing,” he said. “I want to eradicate homelessness.”

Tags: Homeless, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar, St. Pius X School, cardboard city