Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

Falmouth Big Fix a Display of Community

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 @ 11:51 AM
Big Fix-17-5.jpgClifford Long repairs a front step during the Big Fix in Falmouth last month. 

With one knee on the ground, Falmouth’s Clifford Long hammered a nail into a piece of wood, repairing the front steps leading into John Martin’s North Falmouth home.

“I think this is something we should do more of,” said Long, taking a short break as dozens of other volunteers around him removed brush from Mr. Martin’s yard. In the back a crew from Home Depot was staining Mr. Martin’s deck. “So many people, we could make their homes affordable if we all put a little love and attention into them.”

About 20 feet away, Mr. Martin sat in a wheelchair inside his home. An Army veteran who served two years in Korea, Mr. Martin marveled at the kindness of complete strangers like Clifford Long. “You know what this is like? You hear people talking about neighborhoods. If this isn’t a sign of a neighborhood, I don’t know what is.”

What Mr. Martin calls a neighborhood, others call community, and in the middle of last month, there was plenty of that on display during HAC’s 8th Annual Big Fix in Falmouth. A total of 340 volunteers – a record for the Big Fix – showed up to make small improvements to 18 homes owned by veterans, seniors and disabled residents in the Upper Cape community.

If that wasn’t enough, one small group dedicated their time to beautifying the Falmouth Senior Center.

Big Fix-17-6.jpgBig Fix recipient Tina Barr (left) with Rev. John Terry of the First Congregational Church in Sandwich and HAC's Meg Chaffee. Rev. Terry, an advocate for affordable housing, organized a group of volunteers, the "First Fixers", from the church. 

“This is really the meaning of community service and it’s what makes the Cape and Islands so special,” said Falmouth Selectman Megan English Braga during the kick-off to the Big Fix at the Lawrence School.

At the kick-off, HAC CEO Alisa Galazzi took a moment to praise the work the volunteers were doing. “It really means a lot to be able to have this community support and to come out and help these [people],” she said. “This helps them stay in place.”

These were people like 91-year-old Jim Crossen who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. At his home, a small crew of volunteers repaired his garage door while his daughter Jamie spoke about what the Big Fix meant to her. “What I think is really great is that knowing my dad, he has given so much to the community and volunteering his time, and now it’s nice it comes full circle and people are doing the same for him,” she said.

“I never could do this myself,” West Falmouth’s Valerie Tillman said outside her home where volunteers were clearing brush, removing weeds, and mulching her flower beds.

It was a similar scene at Dorothy Sgarzi’s home in East Falmouth, where volunteer Dana Robert remarked, “It is amazing how much work you can do with so many hands” after crews had finished beautifying her yard.

While the calendar may have read September 16, Christine (Tina) Barr of East Falmouth said the Big Fix actually felt like a holiday. “It was like Christmas morning,” she said. “This was much more than I could have ever imagined.”

Donate to the Falmouth Big Fix 

 

Tags: Philanthropy, volunteerism, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers, Falmouth, Falmouth Big Fix, veterans

4-H Club Brings Holiday Cheer to Angel House

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 27, 2017 @ 05:14 PM
group fixed DSC_0604.jpgA sampling of some of the creative cook designs made during last month's holiday party organized by the Harwich 4-H Club. 

Candy canes covered in red and green stripes, a gingerbread man adorned with a smiley face and green sweater, and snowmen with top hats.

These were just a few of the decorative cookie creations that six members of Harwich’s 4-H Club made alongside mothers and children staying at HAC’s Angel House shelter. They did so together, sitting quietly at the dining room tables inside two of the houses on the Angel House property where frosting and sprinkles were applied carefully to sugar and gingerbread cookies.

This festive scene took place just four days before Christmas, part of an annual holiday tradition started by the club three years ago. Each year they do something different; last year was a potluck dinner followed by games and the year before they helped the families decorate the Christmas trees at Angel House.

“This is fun,” said Jaylene, one of the mothers at Angel House, as she decorated cookies next to her daughter. “It’s nice of them to donate their time.”

She has been at the shelter for nearly four months. “It has given me a sense of security,” she said. “I feel safe here.”

Once she leaves shelter, she hopes to go back to school and become a drug counselor. “I want to give back in some way and help people,” she said.

Tags: Angel House, volunteerism, Christmas, holiday giving

Shelter Telethon Addresses Homelessness on Cape Cod

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Nov 14, 2016 @ 10:00 AM
Matt Pitta and Lin Rohr-1.jpgTelethon host Matt Pitta from Cape Cod Broadcasting Media interviews Lin Rohr, the director of HAC's Angel House shelter. Pitta will be returning, along with WCAI's Mindy Todd, to serve as hosts of this year's telethon. 

For the 13th straight year, HAC will be holding its Shelter Cape Cod Telethon during the season of giving. The telethon, which takes place on Thursday, December 8, from 5 to 9 pm, at the Cape Cod Community Media Center in Dennis Port, helps place a spotlight on the region’s housing and homelessness issues. It also raises funds to support HAC’s homelessness programs which include its three family shelters – Angel House in Hyannis; Carriage House in North Falmouth; and The Village at Cataumet in Bourne – as well as its scattered site units, homelessness prevention for individuals and families and its outreach services for the homeless living in the streets and woods of Cape Cod.

Laura Reckford, HAC’s director of community relations and fundraising, said the lineup will be similar to last year’s, featuring HAC staff, board members and volunteers as well as public officials and representatives from a variety of businesses and organizations that are working to address homelessness and improve housing on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Those interested in sponsoring the telethon should contact Deanna Bussiere, HAC’s event and resource development coordinator, at dbussiere@haconcapecod.org or at 508-771-5400, ext. 270.

HAC also relies on volunteers to serve as phone fundraisers to ensure the agency can continue to address the region’s homeless issues. The event is ideal for businesses or groups, serving as a way for them to give back to the community in a meaningful way during the holiday season. To sign up, click the Santa icon below. 

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Tags: homelessness, Shelter Cape Cod Telethon, Fundraising, Matt Pitta, volunteerism, Laura Reckford

HAC Welcomes Wolf and Wallace to Board

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 @ 12:14 PM

Dan_Wolf_Photo.jpg

Two familiar faces – State Senator Dan Wolf and Tara Wallace - have made a return to HAC’s board of directors. The pair was appointed at HAC’s board meeting last month with Wolf filling a vacancy on the executive board and Wallace filling a seat on the constituency committee.

Wolf said he was eager to return to the board, especially because “the biggest economic issue we face on the Cape is the housing issue. HAC is probably the most important player in the quasi-private sector on the issue so I think we have the best opportunity to look at ways to address this issue regionally that allows people to have a lifestyle on the Cape we can be proud of.”

His appointment comes as he concludes his third and final term as a State Senator for the Cape and islands. The founder and CEO of Cape Air said he truly enjoyed his time in office which will officially end on January 4. “I love that government can really be a collaborative partner on addressing the issues,” he said.

With his role as a HAC board member, he will continue to work towards solving the issue of housing. “HAC has been committed to really addressing housing and home issues for over 40 years,” he said. It’s really an amazing organization and I look forward to being part of the team.”

Tara Wallace Photo.jpgTara Wallace of HAC's Constituency Committee

As a former client, Wallace knows just how the agency can help those in need. The agency had a role in getting Wallace her first apartment thanks to a Section 8 voucher and taught her crucial life skills through its Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. “I wouldn’t be where I am without HAC,” she said. “They not only helped me with housing and a car, but they helped me be able to sustain myself and eventually become independent.”

Today, Wallace is working for the Department of Transitional Assistance in Hyannis, where she is a benefit, eligibility and case social worker. A former member of the constituency committee, she expressed similar excitement to serve once again. “I feel like it is a very important role,” she said of the committee. “It is a good tool for HAC to be able to understand where their clients are coming from and how certain rules or programs affect clients.”

Tags: HAC Executive Board, volunteerism, HAC Volunteers, affordable housing, Constituency Committee

HAC Brings Biggest Big Fix Ever to Brewster

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 @ 11:13 AM
Big_Fix-1.jpgHAC's Liz Belcher with her Big Fix team which made improvements to Joan Graham's Brewster home

Early on a mid-September Saturday morning in Brewster, as complete strangers started clearing brush and cutting back overgrown trees from her Main Street yard, 73-year-old Joan Graham had tears in her eyes as she stood inside her kitchen. “It’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s also nerve-wracking too. I am pretty independent and it is hard to accept help.”

Graham was one of 14 Brewster residents to benefit from this year’s Big Fix that saw the largest turnout ever for the day of service, with 278 volunteers dedicating a few hours to make small home improvements for seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners in the Cape community.

The Brewster Big Fix attracted volunteers from throughout Cape Cod and at least one from off-Cape, who participated in the annual community service event. And there were several groups – Mashpee Boy Scout Troop 36, AmeriCorps Cape Cod, Cape Associates and the Barnstable High School Human Rights Club, among others – that did their part in giving back to their neighbors in need.

In many ways, the day represents a celebration of what it means to be a community which is why it was more than appropriate that volunteer Deb Beresford of Hyannis spent her birthday cleaning up 88-year-old Eleanor Stieglitz’s yard. “Last year, we did it for a veteran who came out and cried when he said, ‘thank you’ to us,” said Beresford, who has participated in several Big Fixes. “It touches your heart when you can do something so meaningful for somebody. And it’s a great way to spend your birthday.”

Big Fix Beneficiaries
At the same home, more than a dozen children who are members of Shea’s Youth Basketball Association, were busy with yard work, all in an effort to make Ms. Stieglitz’s life a little easier. Jonah Shea, founder of the basketball nonprofit, said the great part about the Big Fix is that “you get to see the actual person you’re helping.”

These were people like John and Antoinette Mara, who had built their Brewster home in 1976, moving there permanently eight years later. John, 92, had served in the Pacific Theater for the Navy during World War II. The couple had recently celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary; the Big Fix served as the icing on the cake to that celebration. “Our home means everything,” said Antoinette. “And now I can walk up my driveway and see our house as I always wanted it to look.”

Big_Fix-3.jpgGiving back can be fun as shown by Ryan Johnson (left), an assistant scoutmaster for Mashpee Boy Scout Troop 36, and Rowan Higgins, who volunteered at the Mara's home in Brewster. 

Earlier in the morning, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey spoke about what the volunteer work would mean to homeowners like the Maras during the kick-off to the Big Fix at Stony Brook Elementary School. “This is something unbelievable for most of them, the fact that somebody actually comes to their house and takes care of things that have been frustrating and bothering them,” he said.

For 67-year-old Owen Hirtle, the Big Fix represented exactly that. After volunteers had left his home, having removed trash and cleaned his yard, the Vietnam veteran reflected on the act of charity that had been thrust upon him. “This is the biggest ‘thank you’ I have had since I got out [of the military],” he said. “It makes me feel even more proud I live in this country and that people do care.”

To view more pictures from last month's Big Fix, click this link. Next year, HAC will be bringing the Big Fix to Falmouth. You can click the above link to learn more about the Big Fix or apply to be a recipient or a volunteer. 

Tags: Philanthropy, volunteerism, Big Fix, Brewster Big Fix

Cape Realtors Association Pays it Forward

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 @ 02:30 PM
Cape_and_Islands_Edited_9216.jpg Sunny Fellman, chair of the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors Young Professionals Network, with the donations that her organization dropped off to HAC this month. They will eventually go to HAC clients who are transitioning out of shelter and into permanent housing. 

By themselves, backpacks, clothes hangers, towels, kitchen utensils, pillows and notebooks are relatively ordinary, everyday items. But to a select group of HAC clients they will represent a way to move forward with their lives.

At the beginning of September, these were just a few of the new household goods that Patricia Pry, marketing director for the Cape Cod & Islands Association of Realtors, and Sunny Fellman, chair of the association’s Young Professionals Network, delivered to HAC.

The association collected the items as part of its latest drive for HAC’s Welcome Home Gift Basket Program. They will be given to families and individuals to help in their transition from shelter into permanent housing.

As part of the drive, Pry went to the Kmart in Hyannis to purchase some goods. While checking out, she struck up a conversation with a woman in line, explaining these items were going to HAC. That woman told Pry she had been a HAC client “and she may have been a recipient” of the Welcome Home Gift Basket Program, Pry said.

“We exchanged info and I had tears in my eyes,” Pry said. “It was a real pay it forward moment for me.”

“That is our ‘why’,” Fellman said, explaining why the association has conducted these drives in the past and will continue to do so in the future. “For us it is really touching to see the people benefitting from this.”

Those interested in donating to HAC’s Welcome Home Gift Basket Program can contact Mary Everett-Patriquin at volunteer@haconcapecod.org or at 508-771-5400, ext. 279. 

Tags: Welcome Home Gift Basket Drive, Philanthropy, volunteerism, CCIAOR, giving

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.”

Support HAC's Homeless Shelters

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

Tiny Church with a Big Heart

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Aug 19, 2016 @ 03:13 PM
Cotuit_John_and_Allyson_NOAH.jpgJohn Murray (left) of Cotuit and Allyson Murphy of Marstons Mills were just a few of the volunteers from Cotuit Federated Church who donated their time to painting the rooms at our NOAH Shelter. 

We’re a little tiny church in Cotuit,” said Peter Rohner, at the end of June. Despite its diminutive nature, Rohner’s parish, the Cotuit Federated Church, has made a major difference in the lives of Cape Cod’s homeless men and women, proof that you can do a lot with a little.

Over the past year, its members have installed coat hooks above each of the beds at the shelter, hung new blinds on the windows (read that story here) and, most recently, painted the rooms on the men’s and women’s side of the facility.

“This is giving them a little brighter space so they can feel more comfortable,” said Karen Cozza of Mashpee, one of eight volunteers from the church to donate their time painting the women’s side of NOAH in June.

Amy Fish of Mashpee, used the opportunity to bond with her daughter, Sarah Lott, 16, a soon-to-be junior at Falmouth Academy. “It’s fun to do stuff that you know makes a big difference in someone’s life,” said Sarah, as to why she spent a sunny summer day volunteering at the NOAH Shelter.

In another room, Allyson Murphy of Marstons Mills, was joined by John Murray of Cotuit, in giving the walls and ceilings a fresh coat of paint. “This is a good way to pay it forward,” Allyson said.

The efforts being made by members of the Cotuit church are appreciated by Greg Bar, director of the shelter. “They are not only giving their time, they are giving money and giving sweat equity,” he said. “And they keep coming back, asking, ‘How can we help now? How can we help now?’ They are pretty amazing people.”

Cotuit_at_NOAH_1.jpgMembers of the Cotuit Federated Church who donated their time and talents to painting the NOAH Shelter included Peter Rohner (from left), John Murray, Barbara Erickson, Amy Fish, Sarah Lott, Beth Crouch, Karen Cozza and Allyson Murphy. 

Tags: NOAH Shelter, volunteerism, Cotuit Federated Church

Volunteers Needed for HAC's Big Fix

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 @ 10:39 AM
BF_-1_DSC_1058_Medium-1.jpgHAC's Big Fix is a great opportunity to donate your time to help those in need. This year the Big Fix is coming to Brewster. 

What do you get when you bring together over 200 volunteers who donate a few hours of their time to help their neighbors in need? HAC’s Big Fix.

This year, the day of service is coming to Brewster on Saturday, September 17. HAC is currently looking for volunteers who are willing to make small home improvements – yard work, painting, light carpentry, trash removal – for seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners in that Cape community.

This is now the seventh year HAC has organized the Big Fix, first bringing it to Barnstable in 2010. Since then, it has been to Sandwich, Dennis, Mashpee, Yarmouth and, last year, Bourne.

“Brewster is very excited to host and be the recipient of the Big Fix,” said its assistant town administrator Jillian Douglass, noting that “it’s an opportunity for homeowners to have repairs made to their home they otherwise could not accomplish.”

HAC volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin said the Big Fix would not be possible without a group of volunteers committed to donating their time and energy to tackling those home repairs. “Our seniors, veterans and homeowners with disabilities can be absolutely overwhelmed by deferred maintenance,” she said. “Shrubs grow over their first-floor windows. Mountains of items to go to recycling clog the basement or garage. When you turn 10 or 20 volunteers loose on those projects for a few hours, it’s like a miracle.”

Those wanting to volunteer for this year’s Big Fix can fill out an application by clicking this link. If you have any questions please contact HAC's volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin at volunteer@haconcapecod.org or 508-771-5400, ext. 279. The deadline to submit a volunteer application is Thursday, September 1.

Tags: volunteerism, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers, Brewster Big Fix

A Barn Raising at Community Green with Cornell Students

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 12:04 PM
Cornell_Day_4-7.jpgCornell University students were joined by guests at the NOAH Shelter and HAC staff in building a barn at the agency's Community Green property. 

A little more than a week before five Cornell students visited Cape Cod at the end of March, a small patch of land in Sandwich where a miniature donkey named Cooper, some goats and chickens roamed lay vacant.

With the guidance of HAC’s maintenance supervisor Keith Trott, those students helped transform that vacant land into a barn on the agency’s Community Green property where the goal is to one day build 60 affordable apartments.

The project was tackled as part of Cornell University’s alternative spring break, giving college students an opportunity to give back and learn about the impact social service agencies make in the lives of others. Over the past 12 years Cornell has sent a contingent to Cape Cod where they have assisted HAC in its mission to ensure all have access to safe, stable, decent housing.

“I guess I wanted to spend my time and energy away from school doing something valuable,” said Cornell freshman Evelyn Shan as to why she signed up for the trip. It was a similar response for those who joined Shan, including seniors Kentaro Asai of Yokohama, Japan, and Ben Kennet of Silver Spring, Maryland; junior Stacey Kim of Anaheim, California; and freshman Kyle (Eliot) Huang of Salta Lake City, Utah.

Over the course of four days, the Cornell students focused on building the barn while also taking time to visit the NOAH Shelter, to bowl at Ryan Family Amusements in Hyannis with children staying at The Village at Cataumet and to speak with staff about the work they do at HAC.

NOAH Guests Assist With Project

At Community Green, the group was joined by four guests staying at the NOAH Shelter – George, Gayla, Mike and George, all of whom lent their talents to the barn project. Shelter director Greg Bar expressed his appreciation for HAC giving the four the opportunity to help. “I’m just so proud of you guys,” Bar said to the NOAH guests at a farewell dinner for the Cornell students held at Shepley Showcase. “I saw the results after the first day. You just looked brighter.”

Kim, who served as the trip leader, spoke to the passion that staff like Bar have for the work they do and the people they serve. “I guess the really impressive thing about HAC are the people who are invested in housing and homelessness,” she said. “There is a lot of heart that goes into what you do. It is so moving and it really touched me.”

Cornell_Day_4-9.jpgTrip leader Stacey Kim (left) and Evelyn Shan show off some of the tools used in building the Community Green barn. 

HAC’s volunteers bring a similar sense of energy to supporting the agency, something that Kennet spoke to as he mentioned the more than 44,000 meals they serve on an annual basis to those at the NOAH Shelter. “I think it is good to know that volunteers are valued and their work means something and it is important,” he said.

The goal at HAC, CEO Rick Presbrey told the students, is to create a welcoming culture, particularly for “the people we serve because they often aren’t welcomed where they go.” That extended to the group from Cornell who he praised for their efforts as he urged them to continue to be charitable, leaving them with this piece of advice: “something magical happens when one person helps another.”

 

Tags: alternative spring break, Cornell University, Community Green, Community Service, volunteerism