Community Stories

We are in the unique position to have a holistic view of the critical issues on Cape Cod and the Islands. We focus on the whole person, the whole family, and the whole community.


This year, we have 39 community impact partners all striving to improve the human condition across the Cape and Islands. Here are some of the stories that illustrate our Community Investment Grants in action.

Some names have been changed to protect anonymity.

"We are so grateful for your partnership. Our agency has been blessed by community partners like the Cape and Islands United Way whose contributions enable those that have the will – but not necessarily the means – to obtain the services they need. (We can now) sustain and enlarge the safety net for families...and make a difference in the quality of  their lives."


Photo credit: Michael and Suz Karchmer

What does a hero look like? To a child, it is often found in the familiar, in the people who raise us, who protect us, and who teach us the difference between right and wrong.
At the beginning of August, six heroes and the children who look up to them could be found together - talking, laughing, and playing – because they were going to be homeowners. The journey hasn’t always been so lighthearted. There was a time when nine-year-old David and his seven-year-old sister Lucy didn’t have housing stability. They didn’t have a chance to establish roots anywhere for very long, and it was hard to make lasting friendships.

But David and Lucy’s hero, their mother, found a way to give her children the stability they so needed and craved. Through a program supported by the Cape and Islands United Way, she committed to 250 hours of sweat equity, which would result in a home her family could call their own. The Cape and Islands United Way is proud to support these heroes – and the programs that make it all possible. All children deserve the safety and security they need in the form of a home, and thanks to our community, this loving family gets to have one.

We can accomplish so much more United than we can as one individual or group.

Such was the case with Peter, who may never had made it to college without the support of his community. Peter graduated at the top of his class from a Cape Cod high school. He was accepted by several prestigious colleges, including his number one choice, Duke University. But getting in wasn’t the problem for Peter, it was paying for it.

Peter and his single mom, who has multiple jobs, just didn’t have the resources to make it happen. So Peter decided to take a year off and work. A year later, he started the college admissions process again. Just like the first time, Peter was accepted at top tier schools… but none offered the financial assistance he needed. He was heartbroken but undeterred.


Fortunately, Peter's story has a happy ending. Thanks to his long term involvement in a local program dedicated to helping teens, Peter had a strong network of friends and mentors who wanted to help. Peter ultimately received a financial aid package from Boston College, where he is now enrolled as a freshman.

Gail McCarthy was so exhausted and anxious caring for her husband Paul, who has Alzheimer’s disease, that her friends worried that she might have a mental breakdown. She hardly slept because of her constant vigilance to keep him from wandering or falling. With his disease, there was no telling where he might end up in the middle of the night.

Then Gail, a resident of Dennis, connected with Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services, a service of HopeHealth. One of the program’s social workers visited the McCarthys at their home and began providing regular support and counseling services. The social worker helped Gail understand the disease process and explore better coping strategies. She also assisted her with more practical matters such as health insurance. Gail also has gotten help through support groups and the telephone helpline. Gail, a home health aide herself, says the services have transformed her life and mental health.


Thanks to the Cape and Islands United Way and other funders, Hope Dementia & Alzheimer’s Services will serve more than 1,200 caregivers this year.

Valerie is a single mother of five living in Mashpee. Working and raising five children alone is a tough job. When Valerie’s children were young, the YMCA vacation meals program delivered nutritional meals to her children while she was at work, and Valerie felt relief knowing that her children were fed. She would go home on her lunch hour to meet the YMCA at her door and distribute the food to her children. Valerie and her children were so grateful to receive services from the YMCA for three years.

In 2014, Valerie was laid off from her job and was out of work for almost a year. This was hard on the family and she and her oldest tried very hard to find jobs. The YMCA remembered the family and successfully assisted both Valerie and her 16 year old daughter in finding jobs. The YMCA hired Valerie as the new van driver for the nutritional meals that were once delivered to her family. They were able to help Valerie’s daughter land a job at the Mashpee Village Spy Camp. Valerie was overjoyed and was especially thrilled to have the opportunity to deliver the meals that she used to receive.


Valerie now drives the vacation meals van to deliver nutritional meals to a domestic violence shelter, two schools, a church, and the West Barnstable YMCA Day Camp. She also delivers to open sites throughout Barnstable where any child 18 and under can stop by and receive a free lunch. Other delivery sites include two low income housing developments, a library and a church. Meals are also served to the children at the YMCA Camp Lyndon and Mashpee Village’s Spy Camp throughout the summer months. The YMCA vacation meals program was made possible, in part, by the Cape and Islands United Way community investment grant that was awarded to the organization in May of this year.

Laura has left her abusive husband. She has two young children to support and access to one credit card. She went to the bank to withdraw money from the families’ joint checking account and learned that her husband had withdrawn all of the families’ funds from both the checking and savings accounts. She also discovered that her one credit card has been maxed out and she is now behind on payments for three months.

Emotionally drained from the verbal and emotional abuse she has tolerated for years, Laura is now devastated by the financial control. She was able to secure temporary transitional housing, cash assistance and food stamps with the help of Independence House, partially funded by the Cape and Islands United Way. She looking for employment to sustain her family of three while completely on her own.

Laura’s experience with financial abuse was one of the many reasons why it was difficult for her to leave her abusive relationship. Laura was forbidden to work, effectively preventing access to financial resources. Laura’s husband also had maxed out other credit cards in her name that she did not know about. Because of this abuse, Laura was in a financial vortex that was overwhelming and emotionally difficult to get out from under. She is learning new skills and developing confidence to handle her own finances. Through Independence House and funds from the Cape and Islands United Way, Laura was able to attend Financial Empowerment Curriculum classes to help her and her family work towards a promising future.

Like many people in the Cape and Islands community we all know and love, Sarah struggled with addiction. If you or a loved one has experienced this, you know how it can completely unravel a life.

After going through several detoxes and residential treatments, Sarah decided to join a medication-assisted treatment program supported by the Cape and Islands United Way.

The results have been life-changing. In just months, Sarah has became drug and alcohol free, and she is now able to discontinue the medication she had relied on to stay clean. But staying clean was just the beginning. As addiction loosened its grip on Sarah, she found the strength and support to reconnect with her husband and family. She not only held down a full time job - she got a promotion.


Today, she continues to participate in group sessions, sharing her own story and helping others on their journey to recovery.  With your support, the Cape and Islands United Way can fund programs like the one that helped Sarah begin her life again.

Sonia was born just as the Great Depression began. This was a woman, now about to celebrate her 90th birthday, who has been able to get through just about anything.

​But lately, times have been really hard. Sonia relies on a community-supported food delivery program which frees up some of her $650 social security check to use for other bills.

Sonia also has fuel assistance, but last year’s allotment didn’t get her through the winter. After a heavy snowfall, her burner quit during the night. She couldn’t get to the cellar due to the snow piles. Fortunately, she did have somewhere to turn.


Through programs supported by the Cape and Islands United Way, Sonia was shoveled out and received a delivery of oil to get her heat up and running again.

Harsh winters and high fuel prices aren’t going away. But thanks to a strong community with programs that can improve the quality of life for our neighbors in need, Sonia will stay safe and warm.

It’s bitter cold outside and the forecast calls for more cold and snow. It is one of those forecasts where you want to be curled up at home in front of the fire or binge watch the latest TV series. 


But that’s not the case for Jenny and Liam – who are homeless and struggling to get their lives together. Jenny is pregnant and determined to give her child a better life than she had. Jenny grew up in the foster system, going from house to house, never able to build her roots. She has also struggled with mental illness. 
Jenny and and Liam are trying to find their way back to make a better life – but housing costs, low wages have kept them from realizing a dream. 

Hundreds of your fellow Cape Codders don’t know where they will sleep tonight.
In January 2018, more than 350 homeless people were counted on Cape Cod and the Islands.
One of the highlights of their week is their chance to break bread with others, enjoying a hot meal indoors and the opportunity to be a part of a community.


1600 Falmouth Road, Unit 25
P.O. Box 367

Centerville, MA 02632

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Need help and don’t know where to turn? 

A partner of the Cape and Islands United Way, Mass 2-1-1 is here to answer your calls 24/7. They are a human services help hotline that will direct you to the services in your area that are appropriate for your needs.

Call Now: Dial 2-1-1 (that’s it!)