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