Housing Assistance Corporation Blog

NOAH Meal Volunteers Fill Clients With Hope

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 @ 09:59 AM
DSC 0076 resized 600HAC’s Darrell Thomas (middle right) talks to the volunteers that serve meals at the NOAH Shelter.

Whenever an individual comes to the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis, they have experienced serious trauma.

It could be the result of mental illness, addiction, loss of a job, divorce or medical problems. So they look for small beacons of hope that will ultimately lift them out of the darkness. And that hope is what they receive every night when complete strangers, out of the goodness of their hearts, prepare dinner for upwards of 60 homeless men and women staying at the shelter.

“Just by being here and showing a little love is a huge thing,” shelter director Greg Bar told roughly three dozen such volunteers at the end of February when he offered tips for those serving meals and introduced his colleague Darrell Thomas as the new kitchen manager for the shelter.

What these HAC volunteers provide for Cape Cod’s homeless population, Bar said, is a little normalcy when they need it most.

“What you all provide for us is immeasurable,” Thomas added, before acknowledging that he knows exactly what NOAH’s clients are experiencing. “We were in a situation 

like them. My family had no place to stay. We got to HAC and they helped me and my family get back on our feet.”

Thomas, who was hired at HAC in the summer of 2010, has witnessed firsthand the positive impact meal volunteers can have on those who are homeless.

One has been dubbed the “soup lady,” providing two different types of soups to clients every week.

Bar encouraged them to go beyond just serving a meal. “If you want to give them words of encouragement, do it. If you want to pray with them, do it,” he said. “Any investment that builds these people up is a good thing.”

“It just makes you feel good,” said Beth Heiden, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Centerville, who has been preparing meals at NOAH for roughly two years.

“We could be on the other side,” said Francoise Rocher, also of Our Lady of Victory Parish. She first served a meal at the shelter about seven years ago. As to why she has continually come back, she explained it this way: “Coming here reassures me that there are people in the world who are concerned and care.”

Tags: Homeless, volunteers, Darrell Thomas, HAC, NOAH Shelter, Greg Bar

Village at Cataumet Volunteers Exemplify Dedication

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 @ 08:50 AM
DSC 7118 resized 600Falmouth's Betty Bailey (from left), Robert McIntire, Nancy Ledger and Tanya White at a meal they prepared and served at The Village at Cataumet in December.

Webster’s Dictionary may have its own definition of dedication, but at HAC it’s exemplified in volunteers like Dr. Robert McIntire of Falmouth.

Over the past decade, Dr. McIntire and several other members of the John Wesley United Methodist Church in Falmouth, have devoted one night every month to cooking meals for clients at The Village at Cataumet.

“It is nice to reach out and be able to meet these folks and hopefully bring a smile to their face,” said Nancy Ledger of Falmouth. “It means a lot to us and hopefully it means a lot to them.”

In December, Ledger joined Dr. McIntire, Tanya White and Betty Bailey, all of Falmouth, in making a meal of chicken with gravy, mashed potatoes, corn and apple crisp for shelter clients. Because it was the week before Christmas, the group also gave each client a small gift package that included candies and a Walmart gift card.

As Dr. McIntire handed out the packages, one client responded, “This is wonderful. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.”

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Having a chance to meet and interact with those staying at the shelter, Dr. McIntire said, has been the most rewarding aspect of his time spent volunteering at HAC. While all are grateful for the help they are given, he said, “It is pretty tough for small families having to live in a small hotel room, especially when you have two adults and two children. It’s not a holiday.”

“It is difficult,” said Brianne Gonzalez, who has been at the shelter with one of her two children since the middle of October. “I would probably say living so close to other people is the most difficult thing. And having to share things; you normally would have your own kitchen.”

“I’d rather have my own place,” said Richelle Green, a client who lives with her boyfriend Perikles (Perry) Karakostas. The two will be having a baby boy, due in April.

As the couple enjoyed the December meal cooked by relative strangers, Perry praised the group’s generosity. “They are saints,” he said. “It is so good to see nice people with everything that is going on in the world.”

This meal represented one of the few gifts he would receive this season. “Being in the situation we are in, it is hard to focus on the holidays,” he admitted.

It is why, Ledger said, the best part of their volunteer work is when the shelter’s clients are finally able to have a place to call home. “It is always sad to see young families who are homeless. It is tragic, especially at this time of year,” she said. “That is why you are so happy when you come here and they are gone because they have gone on to their own place.”

Tags: volunteers, Robert McIntire, nancy ledger, HAC, Village at Cataumet, volunteering, shelter

Cape Cod Hairdresser Boosts Angel House Clients' Self-Esteem

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 @ 10:44 AM
DSC 0673 resized 600Luanne McCollum (left) doing a client's hair at Angel House.

Once a month Luanne McCollum hops in her car and makes the one-hour trek from Provincetown to Hyannis.

It is a trip she has been making for roughly the past five years. She does so not for her own enjoyment, but the joy it gives to those who are struggling to overcome life’s obstacles.

The visits to Hyannis allow McCollum, a hairdresser by trade, to ply her talents on clients at the Angel House shelter. She will cut, color and curl their hair, helping boost the self-esteem and confidence of women who cope with the trauma of homelessness and addiction.

The seed for volunteering at Angel House occurred after McCollum read an article about a program, Dress for Success, that provided business attire for disadvantaged women on Cape Cod in order for them to go on job interviews. “At the time I thought I could do their hair,” said McCollum, who owns Waves Salon in Provincetown.

About a year later, she began doing just that after talking to a customer who worked for HAC and who introduced her to Angel House.

Over the years she has volunteered her time at the shelter, she has grown to appreciate what it provides to the women and the children there. “I feel this is an amazing facility and it is very much needed,” she said.

McCollum focuses primarily on the mothers in shelter, though occasionally she has been known to work on some of the staff including Angel House manager Lil Burlingame, assistant teacher Amy Brigham and case manager Paula Farren.

“We love her dearly,” Farren said of McCollum. “She is a sweet woman.”

“She is a sweet woman,” Burlingame agreed. “We are very appreciative for what she does for these women and for us.”

As the pair praised McCollum in their office, about 15 feet away she draped a barbers cape around the neck of Courtney, an Angel House client. On this day in December, she would be getting a blow dry.

“I think it is awesome she comes in here and gives us her time,” Courtney said.

She was the second of five clients that McCollum was scheduled to work on last month. Sometimes she has more appointments, sometimes she has less.

Regardless of whether it is clients or staff, McCollum refuses to take any payments. And in December and May (Mother’s Day), she has a supply of hair products she gives to the clients as a gift.

Burlingame acknowledged that being pampered by McCollum makes the clients feel special which is important for their self-esteem.

That may explain why McCollum continues to venture into Hyannis, month after month, year after year. “It feels good to do this for these young women,” she said. “A lot of them haven’t had the chance to have their hair done professionally in a long time because it is expensive.”

And, perhaps most importantly, she said, “most people feel better after getting their hair done.”

Tags: volunteers, Luanne McCollum, HAC, Paula Farren, Angel House, Amy Brigham, Lil Burlingame

Volunteers the Secret Behind the Big Fix's Success

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Wed, Oct 08, 2014 @ 01:06 PM

Nearly 225 volunteers took part in this year’s Big Fix in Yarmouth, each with their own reason for helping complete strangers on a seasonably warm Saturday in September.

These included eight children from Boy Scout Troop 36 in Mashpee (the site of last year’s Big Fix), a former client of the NOAH Shelter, a handful of town officials from Yarmouth and more than two dozen members of AmeriCorps Cape Cod.

Here is a snapshot of a few other volunteers who made our 5th Annual Big Fix one of the most successful yet.

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Gail Benson

As owner of the West Yarmouth landscaping company Gail’s Gardens, Benson was a perfect fit for the Big Fix where she spent a few hours helping to improve Donald and Elaine Lang’s South Yarmouth yard.

Though this was her first time volunteering for the event, she has participated in similar events in Central Massachusetts. Her experience this year was so rewarding that she promised the Lang’s she would return, free of charge, to ensure their yard was well maintained.

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Andrea Hubbard

The award for volunteer who traveled the farthest goes to Hubbard who flew in from Bremen, Georgia, to take part in the event.

Hubbard, who visits the Cape regularly, read about the Big Fix online and planned her vacation around the day of service. “I was looking for some kind of opportunity to help out with housing on Cape Cod,” she said, noting that the Big Fix is special because the results of one’s labor are both tangible and immediate.

“I thought this was enjoyable and it was so well organized,” Hubbard said. “It is just amazing what 30 people can do in two hours time.”

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The Kuchar Family

“We do this every year,” Brian Kuchar said proudly as his wife Christine and their two children, Jack, 13, and Caroline, 11, introduced themselves to homeowners Donald and Elaine Lang.

“This is important for community outreach,” Brian said, before touching upon how the Big Fix has personal significance to him. “My mother she is 83 and we would hope someone would do this for her if she needed the help… It is a lot of upkeep to own a house. When we get older we may need someone to help us because it can be too much.”

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Matt LoSapio

“I did this just to help out our senior citizens,” said the assistant manager of the Yarmouth Port branch of the Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod.

In the process, LoSapio, a native of New Jersey who moved to Cape Cod three years ago, found a kindred spirit in homeowner Harry Petersen of South Yarmouth. Both are diehard New York Yankees and New York Jets fans.

Despite being in enemy territory the pair had a chance to celebrate their common bond before LoSapio returned to landscaping Petersen’s front yard.  

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Rana Murphy

This represented the first time the HAC board member had volunteered for the Big Fix and outside of recipient Michael King’s home in South Yarmouth, she was busy clearing brush. “This is one of the most important events for HAC and as a board member I wanted to see what it is all about,” she said.

She was impressed with the number of volunteers who came out to help those like Mr. King, 68, a former school teacher who admitted it would be difficult for him to physically do the work or financially be able to pay someone to do it for him.

Twice he has fallen in his own house, leading to hip surgery about a year ago. “I appreciate the people coming to do this,” Mr. King said while sitting in a chair in the living room which had just received new carpeting, the result of the Big Fix.

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The O’Brien’s

Over the past three years the Big Fix has become a family affair for the O’Brien’s. This year dad Lawrence was joined by his children Savannah, 16, a student at Cape Cod Community College, Benjamin, 15, a sophomore at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School and Jackson, 14, a freshman at Upper Cape Tech.

“This is a great event because you are able to help people,” said Lawrence, who accepted the Big Fix hammer on behalf of the town of Bourne from Mary Ann Gray, a member of the Yarmouth Rotary Club.

“I love coming here and meeting people,” Savannah said. “Everyone is so appreciative to receive help.” 

Tags: volunteers, Gail Benson, HAC, volunteerism, Big Fix, Rana Murphy

Volunteers Needed for the Big Fix

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Tue, Jul 29, 2014 @ 01:27 PM

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Though HAC organizes a number of events throughout the year the Big Fix in September is perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences for volunteers. “It is always a feel good event and at the end of the day people feel like they really made a difference in the life of a senior, a vet or a disabled person,” HAC volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin said.

This year HAC will be celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Big Fix which started in Barnstable in 2010 when volunteers helped conduct minor home repairs for low-income homeowners in the mid-Cape community.

This year on Saturday, September 13 HAC will send a crew of volunteers to Yarmouth where it will do similar work in that town.

Everett-Patriquin welcomes volunteers of all skill levels, from novices to professional construction workers and tradespersons. There is also a need for experienced handymen to serve as supply pickers at local hardware stores. 

With as many as 12 homes being worked on during the day, she said, it is always useful to have someone at the store to pick up specific supplies that may be needed to complete a home repair.

Those interested in learning more about volunteering for the Big Fix can call Everett-Patriquin at 508-771-5400 ext. 279 or email her at volunteer@HAConCapeCod.org.

Tags: volunteers, HAC, Big Fix, HAC Volunteers

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

Volunteers the Lifeblood of HAC

Posted by Chris Kazarian on Sat, Jun 14, 2014 @ 08:30 AM
DSC 0006 resized 600Brian Rixham at the NOAH Shelter in Hyannis.

“I’ve worked here so long they finally gave me an office,” Brian Rixham says cheerfully as he slowly climbs the stairs to the second floor of the NOAH Shelter and walks into a relatively barebones room with a desk, phone and a filing cabinet.

Here Rixham, an East Dennis resident by way of Sheffield, England – he still maintains the accent despite moving to the United States in 1973 – assists shelter director Greg Bar once a week handling intakes, where he records basic information about NOAH clients searching for permanent housing.

“Today I mailed 25 housing applications for two different people,” he said, adding to the list of responsibilities he handles which also includes “a lot of paperwork.”

An engineer by trade the 79-year-old Rixham has been volunteering with those most in need since 1997 when the Reverend Bob Huff, the chaplain at the Salvation Army in Hyannis, visited St. David’s Episcopal Church in Yarmouth, dressed as a homeless man. “Bob came up and talked about the Salvation Army and the NOAH Shelter,” Rixham recalled.

That initially led to Rixham serving meals for the homeless at the Yarmouth church during the weekends before he expanded his volunteerism to the Salvation Army and eventually to HAC and the NOAH Shelter.

He now has spent 17 years volunteering at HAC and though admittedly difficult, Rixham finds his job working with NOAH staff rewarding. “There are really a lot of sad cases and all of the people have good reasons why they are homeless,” he said. “So a lot of this work is needed… This shelter is a wonderful place. It is a tough, tough situation, but there is housing out there if clients are willing to use our housing specialist.”

For him, he said, the benefits are less tangible, but still meaningful: “I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people,” he said.

Importance of Volunteers

Volunteers like Rixham are an integral part of HAC’s organizational structure. “They enable us to do a lot of things we would otherwise be unable to do,” HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said. “Yes, they do stuff envelopes, but we are also using them to do things programmatically.”

They do so by cooking and serving meals at NOAH and making home repairs for needy residents during the annual Big Fix event. They also fill other necessary roles within HAC whether it be caring for children living in shelter, fundraising or serving on the board.

“We have over 800 volunteers,” Presbrey said. “So you can imagine the kinds of ways they provide quality to the things we do on a very tight budget.”

At HAC’s annual meeting in April volunteer coordinator Mary Everett-Patriquin presented statistics for 2013 when 807 volunteers donated 12,865 hours towards everything from clerical work to soliciting donations during the Shelter Cape Cod Telethon in December.

Those numbers increased from 2012 when over 500 volunteers donated over 10,000 hours supporting HAC’s programs and services.

Everett-Patriquin called HAC’s volunteers “the lifeblood of a non-profit agency like HAC. Without them, we’d have no childcare or drivers at our family shelters, no dinner for our NOAH clients, no one to help with the mounds of paperwork at our main office.

“The list is really endless,” she continued. “Our volunteers gave 12,000 plus hours of service in 2013 which is truly remarkable. But they don’t just give time, they give hope and a way for our clients to start anew.”

Volunteer Statistics for 2013

NOAH Meals: 237 volunteers for 6,912 hours
Childcare: 68 volunteers for 1,800 hours
HACbeat Mailings: 22 volunteers for 258 hours
Fundraising: 206 volunteers for 608 hours
Big Fix: 188 volunteers for 1,029 hours

 

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Tags: volunteers, HAC, volunteering, Brian Rixham

Making Connections at NOAH Shelter

Posted by Julie Wake on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 @ 07:30 PM
“A minimal amount of human contact can change a life,” said Greg Bar, manager of HAC’s NOAH Shelter, about a new volunteer project at NOAH Shelter. 
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One night Bill Dado had a dream he was working with the homeless in Hyannis.  “When I woke up I just had to go to the computer and Google shelters in Hyannis,” said Bill Dado.  Dado moved to the Cape two years ago and is a retired high school guidance counselor from Sturbridge, MA.   “The next thing I knew I was filling out an online application to volunteer for HAC, meeting with the volunteer coordinator and being quickly introduced to Greg Bar.”

Dado’s concept is to create a “pen pal” type relationship with NOAH clients and high school students.  Students would be connected to a client and would initiate a letter exchange as simple as, “I’m thinking of you and I care.”  Clients would receive a letter with just the student’s first name and vice versa. Letters would be managed through the school’s community service person.

In Dado’s previous career as a guidance counselor, he saw major benefits when “at risk” students were connected to a teacher on a one on one basis.  “I thought if we applied this to the homeless, even though the gesture is small, we might really make a personal impact on so many levels,” said Dado.

Sturgis West and Cape Cod Academy have signed on to be pilots for the program. 

Tags: Homeless on Cape Cod, Homeless, HACbeat, volunteers, Volunteer Cape Cod, Volunteer coffee hour, housing assistance corporation, NOAH Shelter, NOAH, volunteering

The Biggest Fix Ever in Mashpee

Posted by Laura Reckford on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 @ 08:25 PM

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The sun was shining and the volunteers just kept coming at the kick-off for Housing Assistance Corporation's annual event, The Big Fix in Mashpee.

When all was said and done, more than 250 volunteers participated in Housing Assistance Corporation’s annual  community service day on Saturday, September 28.

This was the fourth year of The Big Fix, in which HAC sends teams of volunteers to assist income-eligible homeowners—senior citizens, veterans and disabled people—with clean-up, landscaping, and small home repair projects. Since 2010, HAC has mobilized more than 550 volunteers at 52 homes in Barnstable, Sandwich, Dennis and, this year, Mashpee.

“It was a great day,” Julie Wake, Housing Assistance Corporation’s Director of Communications and Development, said. She praised the many sponsors who helped make the event possible, including Heroes in Transition Inc., which donated funds to complete work at the five homes of veterans. Also contributing funds were Eastern Bank, Anchor Self Storage, Botello's Lumber, and the Mashpee Chamber of Commerce. Offering in-kind donations were Cape Associates, Ninety-Nine Restaurant, Starbucks Coffee, Cape Cod Potato Chips, Boston Culinary Group, Stop & Shop, and Pina Sanitation. As an extra special gesture, Mashpee Town Administrator Joyce Mason and Mashpee Selectman Carol Sherman donated a pot of hardy mums to each of the 12 houses serviced during the event.

The Town of Mashpee also played a large role in the event, with town officials helping with everything from signage to trash pickup and labor.

Mashpee Town Manager Joyce Mason, Assistant Town Manager Tom Mayo and DPW Director Catherine Laurent all rolled up their sleeves along with dozens of other Mashpee town employees to help out. Mr. Mayo and Ms. Laurent talking after the event, proclaimed the day an overwhelming success, as people from throughout the community came together to help their neighbors in need.

The 12 recipients of The Big Fix included a 73-year-old tribal elder who is disabled and needed help with painting her front steps; a 96-year-old woman who lives alone and needed extensive yard work; a 93-year-old tribal elder who is partially blind and needed some cords of wood stacked; a disabled woman who recently lost her husband of 33 years; and a veteran’s widow who has an adult son with Down syndrome. Some volunteers also worked to spruce up the Mashpee Housing Authority’s Homemeyer Village on Jobs Fishing Road, which needed a range of yard improvements, including washing the fence.

The jobs at the other homes included tree work, plumbing, chimney work, new doors, installing floors, painting, dump runs, electrical problems, and lots of yard work. Skilled laborers volunteering their time were in abundance and they were needed for jobs ranging from carpentry to plumbing, masonry and roof work.

By lunchtime, most jobs were completed and volunteers returned to the high school for hamburgers and hotdogs cooked on an outdoor grill with food and labor all donated by Ninety-Nine Restaurant.

Among those helping out throughout the day were students from the Key Club at Mashpee High School, boy scouts from Troop 36 in Mashpee led by John Cotton, a  Coast Guard crew from Chatham, social work students from Cape Cod Community College, teachers and other Mashpee School Department staff, numerous Town of Mashpee workers and many other groups and individuals.

Tags: volunteers, HAC, housing assistance corporation

Mashpee Big Fix An Opportunity To Help Those In Need

Posted by Laura Reckford on Fri, Sep 13, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

Mashpee Big Fix

Spend half a day and make a real difference in the comfort, safety, and quality of life for those in need in our community.

Housing Assistance Corporation is looking for volunteers for The Mashpee Big Fix on Saturday, September 28. Not all the work requires heavy lifting. Besides yard work and light repair work at the houses, we need volunteers to help out with sign-in duties and lunch service.

The Big Fix sends teams of volunteers to assist homeowners with clean-up, landscaping, and small home repair projects. Since 2010, we’ve mobilized over 250 volunteers and assisted 40 households in Barnstable, Sandwich and Dennis.

Kick-off on September 28 will be at Mashpee High School, and begins at 8:30 a.m. with coffee and donuts. Most houses are finished by 1:00 p.m. Volunteers also receive lunch and a T-shirt.

Volunteers helping at the houses should be physically able to perform tasks of moderate intensity, such as pruning hedges, raking, hauling brush, cleaning gutters, and moving heavy/bulky items to and from storage. Basic home repair skills (painting, carpentry, electric, plumbing, masonry) are a plus but not required. Please note that minors must be accompanied and supervised by a parent or guardian. Please, no pets.

Interested individuals and groups should sign up by Sept. 13 at  www.haconcapecod.org/big-fix. You can also get further information and sign up by contacting our Volunteer Coordinator, Mary Everett-Patriquin, at volunteer@haconcapecod.org, or by phone at 508-771-5400, ext. 279.

Tags: volunteers, Volunteer Cape Cod, housing assistance corporation, volunteering, Big Fix