From Christmas card sales to dazzling tree displays, three Hyannis-based organizations raise money to help those less fortunate over the holidays.By Lisa Cavanaugh | Photography by Julia Cumes
Although it can sometimes feel like the “big city” on Cape Cod, Hyannis is actually one of seven villages that make up the Town of Barnstable. Despite being home to a diverse population, a major hospital and the area’s transportation hub, Hyannis still retains a small-town attitude, especially during the Christmas season.
Every December, Hyannis-based businesses and organizations lend a helping hand to less-fortunate neighbors. Here are three that incorporate Christmas-themed elements as a way to share the holiday spirit.
For more than 11 years, the Cape Cod Charitable FunRaisers organization has been hosting this dazzling display of decorated Christmas trees to benefit dozens of local Cape Cod charities. The Greater Hyannis Chamber of Commerce executes the event, and this year the trees will be displayed at the Cape Cod Mall on Iyannough Road, after many years at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum (which is planning a renovation of their lower level). Jessica Sylver, outgoing president/CEO of the chamber, says the Spectacle of Trees is important because it supports so many nonprofit organizations that serve our Cape Cod community. “The trees represent a wide range of charities across Cape Cod,” says Sylver. “Cancer organizations, children’s agencies, libraries, schools and animal welfare groups are among some of the nonprofits included this year.”
More than 14 artificial Christmas trees will be on display from Dec. 1 through Dec. 9, each decorated by a different local organization and surrounded with valuable gifts. The goal for each group is to attract as many “tree bucks” as they can from their supporters and the general public. The $10 raffle coupons, which can be purchased through individual organizations and at the Spectacle of Trees display, are dropped into boxes near each tree, with one winner chosen from each. Those lucky folks win the tree, the decor and everything under and around it. Cape Cod Charitable FunRaisers reports that the 2016
Spectacle of Trees netted nearly $200,000 for participating charities.
In addition to helping local charities with much needed funds, the beautiful and creative trees are a delight to behold. “Everyone puts in so much effort on the trees and they are fantastically decorated,” says Sylver.
This winter, when you stop by the busy Starbucks at Hyannis’ Christmas Tree Promenade Plaza for a peppermint mocha or eggnog latte, you can also drop off a filled stocking for local teens in need. Their “Stuff a Stocking” project is a partnership with the Housing Assistance Corporation, which each year coordinates Christmas presents through donations for many homeless families on Cape Cod and the Islands.
People are incredibly generous with gifts for young children, but HAC sees a shortage of teen-focused presents. So the Starbucks team has—for years—arranged to be the drop-off location for stockings containing items like hair and bath products, candy, socks, shaving kits, deodorant, sports water bottles, cards or small games, nail polish, Chapstick—all things that a teenager might love and need. The program was started four years ago by manager Mary Volk, who now manages the Starbucks in Mashpee Commons.
HAC reports that there are more than 100 local teens in their shelter and transitional housing programs that are homeless or at risk of being homeless. And while they cannot accept gift cards in the stockings, all of the other items are incredibly valuable to these youngsters during a vulnerable time. “These teens don’t have a lot of stuff and they see their peers with holiday gifts,” says Chris Kazarian, senior writer at HAC. “It is important to remember that even though they are older, they are still kids.”
Fatih Akdemir, the Hyannis Starbucks store manager, says that people can drop off their filled stockings, or even a gift bag with items, at their location starting Nov. 1 until Dec. 15.
Kazarian credits Starbucks for helping HAC in a variety of ways, including backpack drives and in-kind coffee donations for some of their other projects. “Starbucks has really helped HAC a lot,” he says. “I can’t say enough how everyone at Starbucks—employees and customers—are so generous to our clients.”
A BABY CENTER’S CHRISTMAS CARDS
Photos courtesy of A Baby Center
For the past 10 years, Yarmouth Port artist Marieluise Hutchinson has been creating oil paintings of homey holiday scenes to be used as Christmas cards for the Hyannis-based A Baby Center. The nostalgic images are immensely popular and the sales of the cards have netted the organization, which provides diapers and other infant-care items to any Cape Cod newborn in need, more than $129,000.
Hutchinson, who has shared her talents this way for local nonprofit organizations for more than 35 years, says she chose A Baby Center a decade ago because of a story she heard about a young mother who brought her infant with severe diaper rash to a pediatrician. “This poor mum had been rinsing and reusing diapers on her baby because she couldn’t afford them,” she says. “How could you not want to help?”
A program of the Cape Cod Council of Churches, A Baby Center has been in existence for 17 years, and currently rents space on Willow Street from the Federated Church of Hyannis. Center director Robin Hayward explains that a family in financial crisis may have to make the desperate choice of changing their baby fewer times a day than is healthy. “We make this a safe, supportive space for young mothers to come and get whatever they need at no cost,” she says. “We provide new diapers, baby wipes, formula, and gently used clothing, baby books, linens. We want the Cape families that come in here to leave with a smile.”
The annual sale of Hutchinson’s Christmas cards pays for nearly all the diapers the center provides throughout the year. “Marieluise spearheads the entire project,” says Hayward. “She is so diligent in taking the time to create the painting for us, getting sponsors for printing, marketing the cards, everything. She is incredible.”
A Baby Center starts selling the cards ($15 for a package of 15) online in the late summer and local merchants begin to stock them in the fall. Hutchinson also arranges the production of a limited number of tiles, which sell for $60 and are collectors’ items. “People really look forward to Marieluise’s card each year and we get to see the wonderful effects—both on the people who love to send them to their family and friends and the many young mothers that are helped by the proceeds,” says Hayward.
For her part, Hutchinson says she is gratified that she can use her art to help people in need on Cape Cod.” I’ll be doing this until I can’t hold a paintbrush any longer,” she says.
Another “Village” Helps Out in Brewster
For more than 20 years, Mark Kielpinski has been part of the fabric of the Lemon Tree Village Shops on Route 6A in Brewster. The former longtime owner of the Village Toy Store, Kielpinski has more recently taken over By-the-Bay Designs, a gift shop featuring local artist’s work located on the lower level of the sprawling wood-structured complex. But it is not just commerce that has kept him at Lemon Tree. It is also a deep sense of connection that pervades the marketplace.
Over the years, he has spearheaded a number of charitable and community events at Lemon Tree Village shops. Partnering with other passionate store owners, Kielpinski devises not only fun events to draw customers, such as car shows, craft fairs and a “Toast to Summer” wine and food tasting, but also develops projects to help those in need. He has supported animal charities, such as Paws for Survival and Wild Care, with in-store campaigns, and also sells A Baby Center’s cards (see main story) and the Brewster for the Holidays ornament every year.
And starting each Thanksgiving weekend, Kielpinski places an enormous gift-wrapped open topped box at the entrance to his store for a warm coat and winter clothing collection to benefit the clients of Lower Cape Outreach Council. “It fills up about four times each winter,” he says, “so I load up my pickup and drop them off to Lower Cape Outreach.”
At the Village Toy Store, he initiated the Santa Shop toy drive that also supports LCOC, a tradition that new owner Sherry Bergeron has embraced. Starting on Black Friday, whenever a customer buys a toy, Village Toy matches the dollar value with a toy for Lower Cape Outreach. Bergeron, who also runs a nonprofit that records local news for the blind, says that Lemon Tree feels like family to her and her husband. “There is so much warmth here. Anyone would do anything for you!” she says.
Kielpinski extends that sentiment to our entire peninsula. “I am thankful to have the opportunity to support such worthy causes” he says. “It is about giving back to the Cape community that has given so much to our shop over the years.”