Six students from Cornell spent their spring break with HAC. By the end of the week, they’d helped save someone from homelessness.
After getting an introduction to HAC, the students learned about Project Prevention, a program that provides temporary financial assistance to families and individuals at risk of homelessness. The program is largely funded by the Dennis Yarmouth Ecumenical Council to Prevent Homelessness and the Barnstable Interfaith Council. DYECH and BIC raise money by buying grocery gift certificates, getting a 5 percent discount, and selling them at face value. The “profit” is then donated to Project Prevention.
The students’ goal for the week was to develop a presentation that will improve outreach efforts to sell the grocery gift cards. After meeting representatives from DYECH and BIC, and hearing from several clients, the students started by creating a survey. They were seeking to find out how much staff members at HAC, Emerald Physicians and Cape Associates know about the gift card program and what barriers might prevent them from participating in it.
The students came up with the name Cape Cod Caring Cards and a tagline: “Help your neighbors keep their homes, every time you shop.” They created a spoken presentation with visuals, including a logo.
After getting feedback from a test run with HAC staffers, the students delivered the presentation to members of the Emerald Physicians management team. At the end of the presentation, Dr. Cormac Coyle, Emerald’s medical director, said, “We’re in the prevention business, too. Without housing and health, you’re not in good shape.”
Dr. Coyle agreed to buy $10,000 worth of Cape Cod Caring Cards, for re-sale to his staff members. That will result in $500 raised for Project Prevention, which is enough to save someone from homelessness.
On the way back from a presentation at Cape Associates in Eastham, HAC CEO Rick Presbrey took the students to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum and showed them several of HAC’s affordable housing developments. The students also prepared dinner for and spent an evening with children and mothers staying at Carriage House, one of HAC’s family shelters.
This is the 9th year a team has come from the school as part of the Cornell Public Service Center’s Alternative Break Program.
“I wanted to do something more worthwhile than just sitting at home over spring break,” one student wrote in an evaluation form. “Although the overall process may have been tiring, the end product was really exciting,” wrote another.
This year’s group was team leader Abigail Bell (who is majoring in natural resources) of Nyack, N.Y.; Steven Bramwell (English) of Cleveland; Christine Chow (biological sciences) of San Jose, Calif.; Sagar Galani (hotel administration) of Mumbai, India; Huidong He (economics and math) of Beijing, China; and Derrick Yee (computer science) of Cupertino, Calif. The students were joined by driver Dino Tsipouroglou of Ithaca, N.Y., who hopes to replicate the Caring Cards program in Ithaca to help people at risk of homelessness in that city.
The Cornell students and the HAC staff would like to thank Steve Sozanski of DYECH and Kathy Sandell of BIC for their help with the project. We’d also like to thank Emerald Physicians and Cape Associates for being part of our first phase of focus groups.