2018 Cape Cod People to Watch

An entrepreneur. A passionate educator and coach. Filmmakers sparking important dialogue. We picked 10 individuals who are making a difference in their communities and creating some buzz.

Text by Lisa Leigh Connors | Photography by Dan Cutrona

The Engaged Citizen

Thomas Bena

Creator of the film “One Big Home” and founder of Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival

At the beginning of Thomas Bena’s film “One Big Home,” the late journalist Mike Wallace asks the filmmaker: “Why does it offend you?” His question was referring to the increase of trophy homes on Martha’s Vineyard. Bena responds: “When I walk around the island in the winter and see meters spinning and I see a house empty for eight months, it feels wrong to me.” The thoughtful and engaging film, which took 12 years to make, follows Bena’s journey from carpenter to activist in the town of Chilmark on Martha’s Vineyard. The residents of both Chilmark and Truro used “One Big Home” to help galvanize support around a bylaw limiting house size. Chilmark passed the bylaw in 2013 and Truro residents approved it last May. When the Lakeville native first came to the Vineyard at the age of 30 in 1997, Bena says it felt like some kind of magic land and fell in love with it immediately. The 90-minute documentary is an expression of why someone shouldn’t be able to build a 20,000-square foot home. “If we don’t preserve our open spaces, says Bena, “our natural spaces, the sense of place—it goes away, forever.”

To view “One Big Home,” visit onebighome.com
For information on the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, visit tmvff.org

The Entrepreneur

Liz Hostetter

Founder of Ellie Kai, a made-to-order clothing line

Although Cape Cod native Liz Hostetter has lived in Fiji, Paris, London and Hong Kong, and currently lives with her husband and three children in Boston, she and her family think of Osterville as their home base. “I go for a walk at the same beach I have been going to since I was a kid—Dowses Beach. It’s a total recharge,” says Hostetter, who splits her time between Boston’s South End and Osterville. Hostetter founded the clothing company Ellie Kai in 2011 while living in Hong Kong. When she couldn’t find styles that fit her 5-foot-10-inch frame, she started working with a local tailor to create her own designs, which eventually inspired her to start a made-to-order clothing line featuring comfortable and stylish pieces. Hostetter received the nickname “Ellie” while working with children in Fiji with the Red Cross, and “Kai” signifies power, victory and water. Hostetter, who has 35,000 clients nationwide, points out that made-to-order clothing is less wasteful and is better for the environment. She operated a boutique in Ostervile for a time, but recently closed the location as the company’s business model pivots to an online platform. “People don’t like going to the mall anymore,” says Hostetter, “so my timing might be pretty good.”

For special events, pop-up shows and to view the collections, visit elliekai.com

Spotlight on American Clothing Industry

Judy Laster

Founder of Woods Hole Film Festival

John Gamache

Filmmaker and associate director of Woods Hole Film Festival

“We used to make 97 percent of our clothes in America and now we make 3 percent,” says filmmaker John Gamache. He is working on a documentary with Judy Laster, founder of Woods Hole Film Festival, about efforts by people to revive the apparel manufacturing industry in the U.S. The working title is “Made Here: Rebuilding America’s Apparel Manufacturing Industry.” Gamache says he was introduced to the topic a couple of years ago while working on an Indiegogo campaign for Good Clothing Company, formerly located in Mashpee and now located in Fall River, which supports independent designers and local job creation. The filmmakers have talked to designers, business owners, policy makers and innovators and have visited places in Fall River, New Bedford, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Lowell and MIT in Cambridge, where students are working on high-tech fashion. “This subject takes you back to the beginning of what we did, the literal fabric of America,” says Laster, “when cities and economies were built around people making stuff.”

On Facebook: @madeheremovie
Woods Hole Film Festival: woodsholefilmfestival.org

Building Functional Works of Art

Woody Metzger and Jim Donovan

Owners of First Light Boatworks & Marine Railway

When the owners of Pease Boatworks were ready to sell the business, the stars aligned for Woody Metzger and Jim Donovan. Metzger signed on as general manager for 11 months before buying the boatyard a year ago with Harwich native Jim Donovan, who had been working in St. John and surfing in 90-degree weather. After purchasing the boatyard on Mill Pond in Chatham, they renamed the business First Light Boatworks. But other than the name, very little has changed. The talented and experienced crew from Pease continues to build, restore and service wooden boats. Metzger and Donovan both share a love for the craft: Donovan, the grandson of Harwich fisherman Fred Bennett, built his first boat with his grandfather when he was 12. Metzger, whose dad was a commercial fisherman, grew up on Town Cove in Orleans and his earliest memories are of wooden boats and being on the water. Currently, the First Light crew is working on a beautiful, hand-crafted plank-on-frame 36-foot vessel that will take a year and a half to build. “When something gets launched here,” says Metzger, “it doesn’t feel like technology made it. It has energy and you have a connection with it.”


A Passionate Educator

Jessica Durfey

Spanish teacher, varsity girls soccer and varsity girls lacrosse coach, Cape Cod Academy

In the opening week of school, Spanish 4 honors students at Cape Cod Academy are presented with the idea that they can study anything that interests the class—history, current events, literature, art—as long as they study the topic in Spanish. So last September, Cape Cod Academy teacher Jessica Durfey asked her five students, “Who would you like to study?” They ultimately decided on the late Eva Perón. They studied her life history and accomplishments in Argentina and also tied it in with Day of the Dead by making an altar for Perón. Durfey says she tries to keep it fun for students and enjoys sharing her passion for the language and culture of the Spanish-speaking world. Last year for Halloween, Durfey dressed up as painter Frida Kahlo. “People still talk about me being Frida, not only just Spanish students,” says Durfey, who is originally from Western Massachusetts. “They know who this person is now because I dressed up as her.” Durfey also coaches varsity girls soccer and varsity girls lacrosse and is school advisor for the Pink Ribbon Club, which raises awareness and money for breast cancer research and patients. This year, Durfey is the new coordinator of class trips and international travel. “I am able to help students have more meaningful opportunities through experiential learning on the Cape,” says Durfey, “in greater New England and even abroad.”


Staying True to the Mission

Karen Gardner

CEO of Community Health Center of Cape Cod

Karen Gardner first started working at the Community Health Center of Cape Cod 15 years ago when it was known as the Falmouth Free Clinic and located in the basement of Falmouth Hospital. When it opened its doors in 1998, the clinic served 600 patients in the first year. Today, the center serves 15,000 and offers primary care, dental, vision, behavioral health, addiction programs, family planning and an onsite pharmacy, all under one roof. “Through all the craziness in the health care world and reimbursement, we have always been able to stay true to our mission of providing compassionate and affordable health care to all, regardless of their ability to pay,” says Gardner, who also serves in the military as a reserve advisor to the U.S. Airforce Surgeon General. In 2006, the health center received designation as a federally qualified health center, and in 2008, the 10,000-square-foot facility opened in Mashpee and was later expanded to 22,000 square feet in 2012, which allowed for a new pharmacy, walk-in and imaging services.


The Community Health Center of Cape Cod is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018 with a gala on June 22 at The Cape Club in Falmouth. 

Making an Impression

Jesse Marsolais

Marsolais Press & Lettercarving

In his spacious basement studio at the Harwich Cultural Center, Jesse Marsolais is keeping alive the ancient craft of letterpress and lettercarving—a technology that extends back hundreds of years. On any given day, you might find him carving a memorial slate with a mallet and chisel or printing a wedding invitation from metal type set by hand. When Marsolais, originally from central Massachusetts, found out there was affordable artist space at the former Harwich Middle School a year ago, he immediately inquired about it. Several months later, he and his wife, who ironically attended the former middle school in her youth, moved to the Cape. Walking into Marsolais’ studio is like a step back in time: Thousands of pounds of printing equipment from the early 1900s rests on old wood floors, old metal letters are lined up on a table. The bulk of Marsolais’ work includes wedding invitations, business cards and small books. Customers are attracted to its three-dimensional quality, impression on the paper and unique design. “The nicest thing anyone has ever said about my work is that it was exactly what they didn’t know they wanted,” says Marsolais. “That’s the goal, every time.”


A Young Leader

Lauren Barker

Executive Director of Cape Cod Young Professionals

When the executive director of Cape Cod Young Professionals stepped down last June, the 12-year-old nonprofit organization started a national search for its next leader and found the perfect candidate—nearly 2,000 miles away in Denton, Texas. Lauren Barker, a former administration manager, says her experience with local policy, nonprofit management and community programs will help tackle important issues on the Cape, including career development, housing and childcare. “One of the main things that the CCYP board of directors and I connected on was my passion for local government and community involvement,” says Barker, who spearheaded the Keep Denton Beautiful program in Texas, where she worked with 6,000 volunteers. On the same day she received the job offer from CCYP, her husband, Andrew, got a job offer from Cape Cod Beer, which sealed the deal. They relocated their two children, Liam, 7, and Caitlin, 5, and their 9-month-old Weimaraner, Hildy, to Orleans last September. “We feel really lucky to be here,” says Barker, “and wake up and pinch ourselves every day.”


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