|Michael Sweeney reads one of the many cards he received from HAC staff at his retirement luncheon.|
A person’s life is filled with moments that can have a significant impact on their future. For HAC’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Sweeney, one of those moments occurred in 1972 when his younger brother James died due to heroin use. “I’ve never gotten over it and I never will,” Sweeney told his coworkers at a retirement party held for him at the end of last month. “I think that’s been something that’s always been there. And here at HAC we have helped so many people in similar situations… You look around and we’re helping people who have similar struggles and issues every day. Was that part of what attracted me and what kept me here, the human element of that? I think so.”
Eight years after his brother’s death, Sweeney found himself at HAC as a volunteer, installing energy saving products for seniors on Cape Cod. Sweeney arrived at the fledgling agency as a community organizer with VISTA, armed with a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from the University of Massachusetts.
A year after his arrival, Sweeney was hired part-time in the HAC Energy Department, parlaying that into a full-time position at the end of 1981. “I never believed I would be here 35 years later,” Sweeney said.
Just five days after he celebrated his 67th birthday, Sweeney was reflecting on a career that spanned over three decades, supporting HAC in its mission to ensure those on Cape Cod and the islands have access to safe, secure housing.
Nancy Davison, HAC’s vice president of program operations, said it is difficult to quantify Sweeney’s contributions to the agency and those it helps. “There’s so many and they are so diverse,” she said.
A Bit of Everything
Yes, Sweeney oversaw HAC’s contracts, the hiring of new staff, implementing employee benefits and managing finances. But he also did the little things like shoveling snow, fixing fellow coworkers’ cars and conducting general office maintenance.
HAC CEO Rick Presbrey said Sweeney did this in a quiet, unassuming way.
Over the years, Presbrey and Sweeney developed a close bond; they could often be found together on Saturdays, extending their work week an extra day just to help a HAC client in need, all on their own time.
Since 1981, Sweeney and Presbrey had a routine, working together on issues big and small which helped forge HAC into the agency it is today. This month, that routine has been broken as Sweeney starts the next chapter of his life.
In the short term, he and his wife Karen will be traveling to San Francisco for 10 days in November. A longer trip is planned to Switzerland, where Karen’s daughter, Kelsey, lives, and the Canary Islands in December.
Sweeney, who has two sons of his own, Patrick and Sean, anticipated that at some point in mid-January, “I’ll wake up and go, ‘What am I doing? What did I do?’” he laughed, half-jokingly.
Presbrey said that Sweeney’s passion not only for his work, but for his fellow colleagues and those HAC serves will be sorely missed. “You can’t really like this work unless you care about the outcomes and the people we’re helping,” Presbrey said. “Michael certainly has been a person who increasingly over these 35 years has cared more and more. You don’t always see that and it’s really been reassuring for me working next door to him.”