For many, the holidays are a time dedicated to creating special memories, enjoying warm meals, and spending time with loved ones. Others, who do not have a place to call home, often are reminded about all the adversity they have faced in their lives. With the harsh winter weather making matters worse, people who are homeless often rely on community resources and donations to survive.

Knowing how vital it is to support people from all walks of life, the Cape Cod community once again united together to support its homeless population. With an out pour of generosity from the community, Vinfen’s Homeless Outreach and Engagement Team (HOET) sure felt the love and support as they worked to spread holiday cheer to as many homeless people as they could.

This incredible community support arrived in many forms. Cape Cod Healthcare‘s fourth floor donated 40 ‘ditty’ bags, which were filled with essential items such as hats, wallets, toiletries, and even Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards to purchase a warm cup of coffee. The Behavioral Health Provider Coalition of Cape Cod and the Islands donated 100 socks that were filled with brushes, combs, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and hard candy. Mashpee Middle-High School (MMHS) continued their We’ve Got Your Back Backpack Drive outreach efforts this year to give back to the homeless by donating backpacks that were full of toiletries and essential items for men, women, and unaccompanied youth.

HOET Team Leader Gene Carey, Outreach Worker Lavard Blanche, Peer Recovery Specialist Tammy Szymakowski, and Clinician Frances Bradshaw were then able to distribute these backpacks to homeless people in Hyannis. MMHS has coordinated backpack donation efforts since 2017, and the program has grown tremendously. Twenty backpacks were donated and distributed in 2017, 40 backpacks were given out in 2018, and this year over 80 backpacks were dispersed to ultimately warm the hearts of homeless men, women, and children. Gene shared, “The backpacks offer people a way to keep and maintain their belongings and attend to their hygiene needs as well. These thoughtful gifts will be certain to lift their spirits.” The backpack program would not have been so successful without donations from the community, especially from MMHS’ Women’s Club, the MMHS Democratic Committee, faculty at MMHS, as well as continuing efforts from Adult Community Clinical Services Assistant Team Leader Lisa Holmes. Generosity like this is truly contagious.

Support from the community did not stop there. HOET provided a holiday luncheon at their Coffee House, which was established in 2012 and serves as a dedicated space that provides resources for the local homeless population. Because of donations from Stop & Shop, LLC as well as Our Lady of the Assumption‘s St. Vincent de Paul Society, the team was then able to purchase refreshments, cold cuts for sandwiches, and desserts to provide a holiday meal to those in need. “We know that the community can and does make a difference. They can assist in a timely and generous fashion, and it feels very good that they see HOET as a conduit in facilitating the community’s efforts toward helping the homeless,” Gene Carey expressed.

With the power to do so much good for people who experience homelessness, HOET cannot thank the local community enough for all their generosity, especially during this time of year. Donations are just one way to shower individuals with love who have lost so much in their lives. “We get to meet people in their most desperate moments. They are often mentally, physically, and spiritually broken. We are on occasion able to assist them on the road to recovery. We are very grateful to have the opportunity to do this work,” Gene explained.

If you have any questions about the backpack drive or how you can support people experiencing homelessness, please contact Gene Carey at [email protected].

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