The Barnstable Patriot
The nonprofit WE CAN is based in Harwich but attracts clients from across Cape Cod, and is now offering more classes, workshops and services in the Mid-Cape area.
The organization grew out of a Women in Transition class at Cape Cod Community College 15 years ago, Executive Director Andi Genser told the Barnstable Town Council in a presentation at its Sept. 3 meeting. “We serve women from the bridge to Provincetown,” Genser said, noting WE CAN recently held workshops at the West Barnstable Community Center. She said 98 percent of WE CAN’s funding is from private donations.
Centerville resident Sharon Hawkins, president of WE CAN’s board of directors, and Daniel Schwenk of Cotuit, the board’s treasurer, attended the council meeting with Genser, who said a quarter of the board members live in Barnstable.
WE CAN, an acronym for Women’s Empowerment through Cape Area Networking, helps women of all ages who are undergoing a variety of life challenges including divorce, unemployment, health issues or retirement. The organization offers classes, workshops and one-on-one counseling covering finance, legal matters, employment and other issues. Among its programs are divorce support groups, financial empowerment sessions, a work support program and a mentoring program that pairs women for a 10-month journey of personal growth and development.
Genser said the group does a lot of referrals and collaborates with other organizations and agencies. “We don’t give out money, we don’t give out anything,” she said. “It’s all about helping people help themselves.”
She said the organization’s work is far-ranging. “When we help a woman, we are helping her family and strengthening the community,” she said.
Sue, a client from Marstons Mills, said WE CAN turned her life around. “I was a train wreck when I walked into the WE CAN office,” she said. “I was 150 pounds overweight, in debt, in poor health.” WE CAN helped with financial guidance, a personal development workshop, and “my favorite, the Pathmakers mentoring program,” she said. Since then, she has lost the excess weight and kept it off, reduced her debt and is optimistic about her future.
Her story won a round of applause from the packed meeting room, and the town council voted unanimously to approve a letter of support for WE CAN.
Barnstable Town Council member Sara Cushing said she learned about the group earlier this year and invited representatives to come talk to the full council.
Fellow council members were happy to hear about WE CAN. “This is exactly what we need,” said council member Jen Cullum.