CHATHAM – Roughly a year ago Anne Van Vleck became the new chief development officer at the Housing Assistance Corporation on Cape Cod in Hyannis, a job focused primarily on fundraising. But just filing paperwork and making calls wasn't enough for Van Vleck, who saw firsthand the realities of finding affordable housing here, so she decided to take steps, literally, by running the Falmouth Road Race in support of HAC.
“I was really excited to run for HAC and to raise money,” Van Vleck said. “I'm really proud that I raised more than $1,000. I knew nothing about it but it was really a great race.”
Van Vleck said her primary motivation was the people HAC lends assistance to every day, including the 431 families and individuals helped through HAC's Project Prevention, which keeps people in their homes or helps them find secure housing.
“I love physical challenges and I love signing up for things that are out of my comfort zone and pushing myself,” Van Vleck said. “This was very much out of my comfort zone. I really did think about our clients, the people I see in shelter, the people who come in our door every day. They're literally out of their comfort zone every day. I thought, 'I can do this.'” It just felt good to be pushing myself physically and raising money for a really great agency for which I am proud to work.”
Founded in 1974, HAC has served more than 170,000 households since its creation, and offers everything from first-time home buyers information sessions to assistance regarding finding safe living spaces for homeless individuals and families, as well as programs aimed at helping senior citizens remain in their residences.
“We help people with the full continuum of housing needs,” Van Vleck said. “Homeless outreach programs, families in shelters, elder support.”
For Van Vleck, thoughts of HAC's many valued clients was all the inspiration she needed. That said, taking on such a renowned race was daunting.
“I had never run seven miles before,” said Van Vleck. “I tried running three days a week, but it was a run-walk. Then I would combine it with yoga a couple days a week to keep the stretching and flexibility. The training is hard and I wasn't as consistent as I wanted to be.”
Nonetheless, Van Vleck posted a respectable first-time finish of 1:16:21, finishing ahead of roughly half of runners in her age group. But for Van Vleck, the run was more about the funds raised that will benefit HAC clients than how well she ran.
“It goes into helping us continue to do the work that we do,” she said of the money raised. “We have so many areas of work.”
The race proved so uplifting that Van Vleck is now trying to put together a team of runners from HAC to take on the 2019 race.
“I was thinking I might be one and done before I did the race,” Van Vleck said. “The enthusiasm was contagious. I'm trying to build a HAC team now, and trying to get people excited. It's so beautiful and it's such an event. I was so nervous before it started and people told me, 'Don't worry, the crowd will carry you' and they really do. The energy and excitement is awesome. It's an experience. What a great opportunity for camaraderie within the agency and with your colleagues. I think it would be really fun to have a company team and see if we can have a big fundraising goal within the group.”
Because in the end, while the run itself was exhilarating, Van Vleck's ultimate goal is doing her best to ensure there is housing help for those that need it most.
“I'm really happy to contribute and happy to put into action what I'm doing for work and asking people for,” she said, “and incorporating into my personal and physical goals what I believe so much in and what this agency does to help so many people.”
Van Vleck continues to accept donations via www.firstgiving.com/Page/3430854/Donation or through checks made out to Housing Assistance Corp. and mailed to HAC, 460 West Main Street, Hyannis, 02601, with Anne Van Vleck-Falmouth Road Race on the memo line.