‘We all have a way we can make a difference’
Down a side hallway at the Hyannis headquarters of Housing Assistance, there’s a small room that makes a big difference. Not much larger than a walk-in closet, it contains a variety of new linens, cookware and other household supplies that clients can select when they move from shelter into a permanent home.
Since its inception in 2014, new donations have trickled into the Welcome Home Room throughout the year and come in a flood around the holidays. Keeping the room organized falls into the hands of dedicated volunteer Eugenie Schott of West Yarmouth.
“With items constantly going in and out of the Welcome Home Room, it would be complete chaos without Eugenie’s awesome organizing skills,” said Ann Rebello, Housing Assistance’s longtime office manager, who was recently promoted to executive assistant to the CEO.
Eugenie and her husband, Dick, who’ve been married for 53 years, co-managed the Green Harbor Resort in West Yarmouth for 45 years. “I was used to organizing sheets and towels and everything, so I’m applying the same skills,” she said.
She started as the Welcome Home Room volunteer about three years ago. “It was easy until Christmas came, and hundreds of gift baskets came in from the Cape and Islands Association of REALTORS®, filling two conference rooms,” she said. “I think I spent three or four days a week for six weeks trying to get it all sorted.”
In the process, she found some outdated office equipment, including a bulky decades-old brochure-folding machine, that was taking up much-needed space. “That’s where the brawn comes in,” joked Dick, who hauled things away.
In between holiday seasons, Eugenie comes in every few weeks and spends anywhere from 45 minutes to four hours getting things reorganized.
“Sometimes 15 pillows will go out in two weeks and the next time I come in, no one’s taken one,” she said. She keeps track of the inventory of cookware, linens and toiletries and lets Rebello know when things run low, as they often do this time of year, so that an online wish list (haconcapecod.org/support-us/donate/donating-items/) can be updated.
The Welcome Home Room also stores personal-care items that are distributed by the Homeless Outreach team to people living on the streets or in camps. “Simple things like nail clippers or women’s personal hygiene products help people maintain some sense of dignity,” said Rebello.
Rebello added that seeing the well-run Welcome Home Room in action gives her a good feeling. “The clients who come in to get things are never greedy,” she said. “They’ll ask if they can take two towels instead of one and they’re so grateful for everything.”
The Schotts made their first financial donation to Housing Assistance about 30 years ago. “We could see that the landscapers, housekeepers and other people who worked for us at the resort had trouble finding housing and the need kept growing,” said Dick. “Good things are happening, but not enough to address the needs of the working person.”
“Giving is so important, whether it’s money or your time,” said Eugenie. “We all have a way we can make a difference.”