HARWICH – Robert Perry stared in amazement at his transformed back yard. What had been an area choked with weeds, cluttered with items ready for the dump, and shaded by overgrown saplings just hours before was now weed free, with trash and trees removed, sunlight dappling the freshly raked space. All the work was done by volunteers taking part in the ninth Annual Big Fix, which this year bettered the homes, and lives, of folks in Harwich.
The Big Fix is an annual event hosted by the Housing Assistance Corporation of Cape Cod that not only raises much-needed funds to support the agency's various programs and services, but also helps local residents, particularly veterans, senior citizens and disabled homeowners with clean-up, landscaping, and minor home repairs.
From roughly 9:30 a.m. to around 1 p.m. on Sept. 22, teams of dedicated volunteers, including those from Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, the Harwich Chamber of Commerce and Monomoy Regional High School, clambered aboard buses or into a convoy of vehicles bound for the homes of local folks whose properties were in need of a little sprucing up.
Phil Boire of Mr. Handyman was thrilled to lend his skills to the event.
“On a personal level the Housing Assistance Corporation has helped a near and dear friend of mine who was homeless get shelter, get their own home,” he said. “I was like, 'Wow! This company has done this? What can I do?' As soon as I found out about the Big Fix I was all in. Whatever it takes, here I am.”
What it took at the North Harwich home on Old Chatham Road he and fellow volunteers were stationed at was replacing a main entry door. Boire and fellow Mr. Handyman volunteer Charlie Bergin happily stripped away all of the aging trim around the door frame in preparation for the installation of a new door, while others raked the yard, cleared away brush, and gave the exterior of the home some freshening up.
The day kicked off with a spirited opening ceremony at which the commemorative Big Fix hammer was passed along to Barnstable Town Manager Mark Ells in celebration of the event being held in Barnstable in 2019.
Alisa Galazzi, CEO of HAC, offered enthusiastic thanks to the several hundred volunteers taking part in the 2018 event, many of whom sported colorful Big Fix T-shirts and included area contractors, painters, electricians, landscapers, bank tellers, students, teachers, retirees and more, honoring top fundraisers. The Cape Realtors Care team raised $2,975, while the Polhemus Savery DaSilva PSD Fixer Uppers raised $1,500. So far, almost $45,000 has been raised toward HAC's goal of $50,000, which they're hopeful of meeting.
After the welcome ceremony, teams were dispatched to 18 homes throughout Harwich where they brought smiles to the faces of homeowners grateful for the work being done.
Perry, a U.S. Army veteran who has been a Harwich resident for more than 30 years, delighted in watching his Big Fix team clear away overgrown ivy, cut down overgrown trees, clear away unnecessary items, and even haul away old paint cans from his basement. He also enjoyed talking with many of the volunteers about his lush gardens, and shared heartfelt stories about impressing his late wife with his fishing skills when they first met. His smile was wide as he took in his tidied back yard.
“I can't believe how much they've done in such a short period of time with the nice help they have,” Perry said. “I can't believe how big the yard is now. They've cleaned it all up. It looks so nice. Now I can get around here and do some stuff I wanted to do before but couldn't. It really is great.”
“It really is an incredible day,” said Anne Van Vleck, chief development officer at HAC. “I have the great pleasure of going around to the homes, and Alisa and I were able to visit nine homes. In addition to transforming the lives of 18 people on Saturday, the fundraising/Fix-a-Thon efforts allow us to continue to impact so many people across all of the Cape and Islands year round. Very proud that we raised over $45,000 and we are inching toward our goal of $50,000.”
To make a donation, visit www.firstgiving.com/event/hac/Harwich-Big-Fix-18/teams.