RCAP Solutions Partnering with USDA to Help Very-Low-Income, Rural Homeowners with Funding to Repair, Improve, and Modernize Their Houses

RCAP Solutions Partnering with USDA Rural Development to Help Very-Low-Income, Rural Homeowners with Funding to Repair, Improve, and Modernize Their Houses

Full Press Release

RCAP Solutions and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development (Southern New England Region) are proud to announce a partnership between our two agencies in helping very-low-income, rural homeowners with funding to repair, improve, and modernize their houses.

The USDA’s Section 504 Home Repair Program provides funding in the form of a 1% fixed-interest loan up to $40,000 to complete single-family home repairs or to remove health and safety hazards. In addition, applicants 62 years of age or older are eligible for a $10,000 grant. The loan and grant may be combined for up to $50,000 in assistance. In order to quality for assistance, the family must be very-low-income and live in an eligible rural area. You can visit the USDA Income and Property Eligibility website for complete details.

RCAP Solutions will be acting as a “loan packager” on behalf of USDA Rural Development and eligible homeowners; performing credit checks for applicants, providing guidance on bids and repairs that need to be made, and ensuring all documents listed in the application checklist are submitted.

USDA Rural Development’s Single Family Home Repair Loans and Grants are a perfect complement to RCAP Solutions’ Home Modification Loan Program (HMLP), which provides funding to homeowners to make accessibility changes to keep themselves or a family member with a disability or mobility impairment living comfortably in their own home. Loans are 0% interest and can range from $1,000 to $50,000.

RCAP Solutions has been administering HMLP since 2000 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC). The program has generous income guidelines and allows for accessibility renovations based on the household member’s medical need. HMLP can benefit anyone in the house who has a disability or mobility impairment; the homeowner themself, their child, or an elderly family member. Possible home modifications can include ramps, stair lifts, walk-in bathtubs, and much more.

RCAP Solutions has a long-standing relationship with numerous federal and state branches of the USDA. The department is one of RCAP Solutions primary partners and funders directly involved in the implementation of our Community & Environmental Resources programs.

RCAP Solutions’ 2023 Impact Report – Paving the Path Forward!

In 2023, RCAP Solutions continued to gain momentum as we shifted our focus from the pandemic and began to strategically plan for the next phase of our organization. Navigating the dynamic landscapes of our service industry, it is essential to assess our current position and anticipate our future direction. View our 2023 Impact Report to learn more about last year’s accomplishments and check out stories from the people we serve!

Amid programmatic expansion, staff growth, and new partnership opportunities, it was ideal to prioritize strategic planning initiatives and envision the future of RCAP Solutions. Our enthusiastic board of directors collaborated closely with an engaged management team to address internal and external challenges, successes, and opportunities, positioning our organization for continued success.

We thank our partners and continued supporters and invite you to join us as we pursue a collective vision of a world made up of strong and resilient communities and individuals, confident in their potential and with ownership of their success.

We look forward to a productive 2024 as we remain steadfast in our commitment to fulfilling our mission: To foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live.

Julie Carroll, RCAP Solutions Board Member

Julie Carroll is a human resources and operations professional with more than 25 years of experience in diverse business environments. She joined the RCAP Solutions Board in July of 2022.

Her portfolio includes proven achievements in business operations management, risk management, employee relations, training, and development. She is a self-starter; dependable, highly motivated and a thorough performer with a demonstrated ability to work with all levels of management to design, develop and implement strategies to improve business and employee performance, and can effectively inspire others to achieve individual and corporate goals. Julie is also a Real Estate Sales Agent with Keller Williams Realty, Inc. and brings community development experience as a former planning board member for the town of Boxborough, MA.

Julie began her career in the areas of finance and operations. Working in an entrepreneurial small business environment for a family-owned company, she found herself moving into a human resources role, bringing the organization together working with benefits, employee handbooks and enjoyed supporting the employees. “I felt challenged in that arena,” she noted. “I could hone my skills in that area and used strategy to focus on the employee experience. As a result, my career evolved, and I went on to own and operate a small HR outsourcing company for several years.”

Julie received her AAS in Liberal Studies at Middlesex Community College in Bedford, MA, and a Professional Human Resources (PHR) certification from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) in Alexandria, VA. She brings a wide range of specialties in operations, HR implementation, employer and employee regulations, small business operations and employee engagement to her role as board member.

When asked what she is passionate about, Julie responded “I find that what I’m enthusiastic about has evolved.” She continued “I really enjoy creating experiences with friends and family. I enjoy being outdoors, doing things like gardening, kayaking, and boating in summer, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in winter. I really appreciate being outdoors. My passion is in creating a fuller life as I mature. I want to have experiences with my family and grandchildren.”

Julie has found that it is important to achieve a work-life balance and be there for both family and work. “My greatest accomplishment is my family,” she noted. “The resilience I have experienced with my mom getting Multiple Sclerosis and taking care of her, along with the loss of my brother, my personal triumph is in raising my family. I was able to achieve much of my growth in my career without needing a big educational base to launch from. I feel immensely proud of my achievements.”

Julie was attracted to becoming involved at RCAP Solutions because of the housing programs, which she believes are essential for success. “Personally, I saw my mom go back into the workforce after not working for many years,” she commented. “Seeing how RCAP provides housing services is paramount to resetting someone in a difficult position. Empowering people beyond just providing vouchers was intriguing to me, I felt I could relate and have good insight.”

Julie went on to say “RCAP’s mission of improving the quality of life for individuals, giving them what they need are tools for success.” She stated, “I am very big on accountability, and I believe that ownership of that success and vision, and ownership of your actions is a good balance with self-reliance and self-sufficiency. The financial literacy and first-time homebuyer workshops and other housing services provide the benefit of giving, and seeing the ripple effects it can create for people, really relates to my core values.”

Julie noted that her skills and expertise complement RCAP’s mission. “My mindset aligns with the board’s work, strategic planning, creating success, evaluating overall performance is very parallel with HR. I can relate to what you are doing, being able to add to that strategic insight and HR, both sides are human capital. Helping people solve a problem and see success.” When asked about her experience volunteering on RCAP Solutions’ board, she observed “RCAP is open, inviting, educational, and what we are doing is huge. It’s not an intimidating environment and without any background, someone can come in and sit comfortably on the board and be able to provide their skills and benefit the organization.”

Julie has been involved in RCAP’s recent strategic planning process and has enjoyed seeing that come to fruition. “It was much needed,” she noted. “I have spent a lot of time with entrepreneurs, telling businesses that they needed to re-strategize, work on goals, and focus on expectations and communications styles. Being a part of this process and hearing feedback from employees and partners has been beneficial. Strategic planning is a monumental rock, and for any organization, it’s like pushing it up a hill. I feel like I can continue to contribute to this area as it is similar to what I do as a consultant, and I can support the organization in that capacity. As we continue and finalize this process, that is something that we will all be enormously proud of.”

Julie’s full bio can be found on our website.

(Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required. Feel free to walk-in!)

This April, we will be hosting a Career Fair at our Worcester headquarters office. There will be an opportunity to meet with our Human Resources department and program managers, ask questions, and learn more about the benefits of a career with RCAP Solutions.

This event is being hosted by RCAP Solutions in partnership with the MassHire Central Career Center and the MassHire North Central Career Center. On-site interviews will be conducted, so please bring your resume! Please park in the upper lot and feel free to arrive at anytime between 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM.

We’re looking to recruit talented individuals throughout Central Massachusetts and the greater Northeast. Entry-level and more advanced opportunities include:

  • Housing Counselors
  • Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) Triage Associates
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program Specialists
  • Section 8 Program Representatives
  • Section 8 Program Assistants
  • Maintenance Technicians
  • Property Managers
  • Rural Community & Enironmental Specialists
  • Payroll Coordinator
  • And more!

For a full list of available positions, visit: www.rcapsolutions.org/careers/

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact our Human Resources Department via email: HR@rcapsolutions.org

RCAP Solutions Hosts “Lunch with Legislators” Event with Central Massachusetts Delegation + Briefing with USDA Rural Development

On March 8, 2024, we were delighted to have “Lunch with Legislators” at our headquarters office! During this interactive briefing with the Central Massachusetts delegation, we detailed the positive impact of our housing, community, and environmental programs.

We were honored to be joined by so many legislators, legislative staff, and local government officials to engage in a conversation about the issues facing families throughout Central Massachusetts and talk about how RCAP Solutions helps.

The event was graciously sponsored by the office of Representative David LeBoeuf and featured special guests Scott Soares, State Director (MA/CT/RI) at USDA Rural Development, as well as LaToya, a hardworking participant enrolled in both our Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) and Supporting Neighborhood Opportunity in Massachusetts (SNO Mass) programs!

Watch the recording here!

On March 6, 2024, we were thrilled to be joined by USDA Rural Development (Southern New England Region) for a working lunch and meeting at our Worcester headquarters office!

We discussed our housing programs available to individuals and families in Central Massachusetts and learned more about the USDA’s housing, lending, and grant programs – with the goal of intertwining these services and increasing awareness of these opportunities throughout the communities we serve.

Special thank you to our incredible program staff, as well as USDA Holden, MA Area Office Director, Lyndon Nichols, and USDA Rural Housing Service staff members Jacob Sargent, Crystal Howe, and Jim Lavin for joining us!

Management and finance are important for small systems to operate correctly. This course will be going over key areas of management, boards and stakeholder roles, asset management, inventories, budgets and the importance of reserves and rate setting. This training is also for potential water operations, managers, and board members.

Media Contact: Maegen McCaffrey, Vice President of Communications, RCAP Solutions, Phone: 978.630.6714; Email: mmccaffrey@rcapsolutions.org

RCAP Solutions is pleased to announce that the organization has been selected as a host for the first cohort of Economic Recovery Corps Fellows, headed by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

The Economic Recovery Corps (ERC) Fellowship program aims to build capacity in economically distressed areas across the U.S. while cultivating the next generation of economic development leaders. The program connects 65 host sites nationwide with diverse practitioners and leaders with the passion, skills, and vision to create new ways of performing economic development. The ERC Fellowship was launched in 2023 through a $30 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). It is led by the International Economic Development Council and supported by six other national economic development organizations.

Each project across the United States receives a dedicated fellow, who is fully funded for 2.5 years from the ERC program, serving as a field catalyst to enhance, strengthen, and coordinate relationships and local efforts alongside the host communities. RCAP Solutions was matched with Elyse Oliver, who brings a wealth of education, experience, and passion to help the organization and local stakeholders on the “Community Engagement to Guide Ecosystem Development” project.

“We are excited to begin work with Economic Recovery Corp fellow, Elyse Oliver, and engage in community-led economic development planning and stakeholder engagement in rural communities,” expressed Jenna Day, Director of Development at RCAP Solutions. “This is an exciting opportunity to partner with IEDC and EDA to impact sustainable infrastructure planning and we are looking forward to what the next 30 months will mean to growing local capacity for development.”

This community engagement project, led by RCAP Solutions, will address challenges faced by disadvantaged communities in Franklin County, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont regarding infrastructure development and economic sustainability. The project aims to shift the narrative in rural communities, identifying opportunities for local capacity growth, fostering thriving small businesses, and promoting sustainable economic development. Ms. Oliver will play a pivotal role in community interaction, research of rural ecosystems, and infrastructure requirements. She will conduct extensive outreach and utilize online surveys and tools to validate identified needs. The goal is to communicate findings, gain insights, and identify catalysts for a regional action plan that will support resource planning for small rural communities seeking to cultivate sustainable economies.

“ERC is more than a fellowship; it is a testament to the power of collaboration and strategic partnerships deeply needed to produce lasting social and economic impact. By joining forces with national partners, host organizations, funders, and practitioners eager for new models and practices, ERC will build capacity in places of need while supporting the next generation of economic development leaders, all while driving more equitable economic outcomes,” said Nathan Ohle, President & CEO of IEDC. “By investing in capacity building and leadership development, facilitating knowledge sharing and partnerships, the ERC program will set the stage for the future of economic development and a new age of collaboration in the economic development field.”

RCAP Solutions was chosen from over 500 applications to be among the 65 host sites selected to receive help in advancing this project, which is critical to the economic recovery of our community. ERC projects represent the interconnectedness between economic development and the pressing needs in communities of all sizes, including workforce development, entrepreneurial ecosystem building, housing, childcare, climate resiliency, broadband, and access to capital.

“I’m excited about forming deep relationships with residents and town representatives,” commented Elyse Oliver, RCAP Fellow. “I look forward to demonstrating how community engagement can and should occur – as a central, guiding activity for pivotal planning efforts.”

For more information on how your community might benefit from RCAP Solutions’ “Community Engagement to Guide Ecosystem Development” project, please contact Madison Wellman at mwellman@rcapsolutions.org, call: (774) 239-9783, or visit: www.rcapsolutions.org/economic-development.

For more information about the Economic Recovery Corps program, please visit: economicrecoverycorps.org.

About RCAP Solutions, Inc.
RCAP Solutions is the go-to resource of sustained success for communities throughout the northeastern part of the U.S. and the Caribbean. Established in 1969 (as Rural Housing Improvement), RCAP Solutions has supported the power and potential of communities for over half a century as strategists of community-wide well-being. Our mission is to foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live. For more information, please visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

About IEDC
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 4,300 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities by creating, retaining, and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base. From public to private, rural to urban, and local to international, IEDC’s members engage in the full range of economic development practices. Given the breadth of economic development work, our members are employed in various settings, including local, state, provincial, and federal governments, public-private partnerships, chambers of commerce, universities, and a variety of other institutions. When we succeed, our members create high-quality jobs, develop vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life in their regions. Learn more at iedconline.org.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA invests in communities and supports regional collaboration in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. Learn more at www.eda.gov.

Math is an integral part of drinking water and wastewater operations and is often one of the hardest topics to master. This course will review basic math concepts, tactics for solving problems, and provide practice applying the concepts to solve examples.

Math is an integral part of drinking water and wastewater operations and is often one of the hardest topics to master. This course will review basic math concepts, tactics for solving problems, and provide practice applying the concepts to solve examples.

Math is an integral part of drinking water and wastewater operations and is often one of the hardest topics to master. This course will review basic math concepts, tactics for solving problems, and provide practice applying the concepts to solve examples.

‘Twas Mid December at RCAP Solutions…

‘Twas Mid-December and all through the skies,
RCAP teams with care and wise.
In every office, staff worked with glee,
Offering essential aid, as busy as can be.

The needy many, deserving of cheer,
In this season of giving, their hopes draw near.
For when the demand rises, so great and so clear,
RCAP’s dedication shines, year after year.

In our Housing Consumer Education Center,
We make sure every client has a supportive mentor,
To assist in all aspects of home ownership and leasing,
In case you should see a problem increasing,
If a concern should arise, there’s lending or training,
Should you find your bank account suddenly draining.

With Subsidized Housing, we help pay the rent,
Offering programs for both landlord and tenant.
Everyone deserves a safe home and a bed,
Where each family member can rest their head.
We can also assist with housing mobility,
And case management for economic stability.

Our Housing for Seniors and the Mobility Impaired,
Offers features and services that can’t be compared.
Our professional staff is supportive and giving,
With countless services for independent living.
For those who reside in RCAP’s great care,
Our teams will provide for ALL who live there.

Our Environmental Crew work with communities to ensure,
The water that pours from the tap is pure.
From Maine to Pennsylvania, we offer technical assistance,
For those in rural regions, we’ll travel the distance.
Whether it’s wastewater, mapping, training, and more,
We’ll assess your infrastructure, and help settle the score.

The Caribbean Team helps the islands with pollution,
Teaching about recycling, and solid waste solutions.
We offer disaster planning, and prepare for the future,
Should climate change impact your region and need suture.
Financial assistance for septic or well repair,
We’re here for our communities, never despair!

Here in Massachusetts, we’re Advocating for Change,
For private well homeowners, who may need a range,
Of regulations for education, testing, and support,
Should their water tests come up short,
And need repair to keep families in good health,
For every resident, across the Commonwealth.

Our Administrative Staff provides support to our programs,
IT keeps us online, and safely protected from scams.
Finance cuts checks and keeps the books in balance,
HR supports the organization, hiring people with talents.
Marketing ensures the public is in the know,
And Development guarantees that funding won’t slow.

In the Northeast our influence spreads, far and wide in stride,
In Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, forever shall we reside.
Fostering community’s power, potential, a bond we unify,
In this commitment, our focus and unity lie.

Nurturing strength, resilience, and confidence, our gift to bestow,
Supporting individuals, families, communities, helping them grow.

Timothy Grinham, RCAP Solutions Board Member

Timothy Grinham, a Commercial Banking and Lending Specialist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, joined the RCAP Solutions Board of Directors in July of 2022.

Headquartered in New York City, S&P Global is a world-wide leader providing financial services information. Tim works in their Market Intelligence division, working with financial institutions under $5 Billion in Total Assets on workflow automation and commercial prospecting.

Tim has a professional background in technology, banking, lending, real estate, and brings over 20 years of experience in finance, investment, and sales management to his role on the board. He has extensive knowledge of working with federal funding sources, financing, managing customer accounts and portfolios, developing business opportunities, customer service, and training.

When asked what he likes to do with his free time, Tim responds, “For me, it’s all about family time. I spend as much time as possible with my wife and my two daughters and am excited to be coaching my daughters in soccer and basketball.” In his spare time, he enjoys reading, catching up on current events, banking news and the stock market.

Tim was drawn to the banking profession almost by accident. “When I graduated in 2002, I walked into a large recession due to 9/11,” he stated. “There was not much activity going on in the job market, so I stumbled into the mortgage industry. It was a good opportunity with rates dropping and I was able to get into refinancing existing debt. I began the first part of my career in the residential market and later became involved in commercial banking.”

He had always wanted to pursue a career in technology, and in his current position, he is able to draw from his previous experience working with banks, credit unions, and smaller institutions, providing them with technological solutions for their information service needs.

Tim received his BA in Business Management from Johnson State College in Johnson, VT. His volunteer experience includes board membership with Worcester Community Housing Resources, the Town of Paxton Capital Improvements Committee, and as a mentor for SBA workshops and business incubation companies in and around MA.

When asked what Tim feels his greatest professional achievement is, he mentioned the impact that banking and commercial lending can have in the community. “We moved to the Worcester area in 2014,” he stated. “I was very excited to start a position lending with a bank located in downtown Worcester. Over the course of the next several years, I was able to be a part of the Worcester economy during a growth period. I take a lot of pride when traveling through Worcester and seeing the businesses that I worked with throughout my career and knowing that I had a small part in the positive impact on the area. I find it extremely rewarding to drive around the city with my family and say, ‘I worked on that building, or I or helped to finance those renovations.’”

He went on to say, “What I miss most about banking is the positive involvement in the community, which is what drew me to RCAP Solutions. I want to support the work the organization does in both the urban and rural areas of the region.”

Tim believes “it’s critically important to serve both markets, especially in these times of economic uncertainty, when there are factors outside of our control.” He went on to say, “RCAP is a great organization to be involved in. Because of the range of programs, we have an opportunity to serve many communities and a diverse client base.

As a relatively new board member, Tim considers his time volunteering with RCAP to be a positive experience. “I’ve learned a lot about the services RCAP offers,” he states. “When I came to the organization, I was familiar with the housing and lending services. Now that I have really gotten involved, I’m extremely impressed with how much the organization and staff accomplishes.” He has enjoyed getting to know the board members and employees. “I think the staff is incredible,” he remarked. “They work hard and do an excellent job. I have really appreciated learning more about the teams and their programs.”

Tim looks forward to completing the year-long strategic planning process that the organization is undergoing. “I anticipate that once we’re implementing it, we will see the positive impact that it has on both the organization and the clients that we work with.” He concluded by saying “It’s just been a great experience, and I look forward to continuing to see the organization do great work.”

Tim’s full bio can be found on our website.

This class will be going over key areas of Lead and Copper Rule Revisions for Public Water Systems. The course includes lead and copper basics, covers regulatory requirements, action level and trigger levels, monitoring, treatment, public notification requirements and EPA improvements. Inventory and identification, lead service line replacements as well as funding options, and schools and childcare facilities will also be presented. This training is also helpful for potential water operators, PWS owners, managers, and board members.

Amid Concerns Over Contaminants and Pending Legislation, The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts Sponsors Survey by MassINC Polling Group

Media Contact: Greg Turner, Ball Consulting Group, LLC, Phone: 617-243-9950; Email: greg@ballcg.com



A new public opinion survey released today by the MassINC Polling Group finds broad support among Massachusetts residents for strengthening drinking water protections for private wells to ensure safety and quality. The survey was sponsored by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts as part of its Private Well Program to Protect Public Health led by grantee RCAP Solutions.

More than 500,000 Massachusetts residents rely on private wells for their drinking water, yet, unlike with public water systems, these sources are not subject to any statewide regulations or testing requirements. With manmade and naturally occurring contaminants found in private well water across the state, this gap and higher risk of exposure has prompted growing concern and calls for legislative action.

According to the poll, 73% of Massachusetts residents think well water should be protected in the same way as other sources of drinking water. Nearly all of those polled agree that all Massachusetts residents should have access to safe drinking water (97%) and that state government should play a role in achieving that goal (92%). There was a clear majority supporting these statements, regardless of demographics or party affiliation.

The poll also found a worrisome gap in well water testing rates. Only 21% of well users had tested their water in the past year and another 21% were not sure when their water was last tested. Just over half (53%) of well users reported they had not paid anything for well testing or maintenance in the past year.

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Three-quarters (75%) support proposed legislation to enable the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to develop statewide private well protections.
  • There was even stronger support (80%) when it was explained that the proposed legislation includes financial support for remediation of contamination for low-income homeowners with private wells.
  • A clear majority (57%) “strongly support” testing well water before a home is sold, and 72% of private well owners support such a policy to some extent (“strongly support” or “somewhat support”).

“The results of this poll demonstrate widespread support for improving access to safe drinking water and for developing greater protections and uniform testing standards for private well owners throughout the Commonwealth,” said Amie Shei, President and CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. “All Massachusetts residents should have access to safe drinking water regardless of where they live and whether they have access to public water systems or private wells.”

Many homeowners in Massachusetts are facing substantial costs over contamination found in their private wells, including water sources exposed to PFAS, synthetic substances known as “forever chemicals” because of their persistence and prevalence in the environment.

The poll results were unveiled today during a legislative briefing at the State House organized by The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts, RCAP Solutions, and the Coalition for Safe Drinking Water which was launched as part of this project. The event highlighted pending legislation, An Act Promoting Drinking Water Quality for All (S.482/H.902), sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Marlborough), Rep. Dan Sena (D-Acton) and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli (D-Lenox). The bill is scheduled for a public hearing before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on Sept. 27.

The survey took a deep dive into general perceptions of public and well water quality. Majorities at least somewhat agree that they worry about whether their water is safe to drink  (61%) and that not everyone in Massachusetts has safe tap water (63%).

In an urban-rural breakdown of the data, those living in western Massachusetts – where private wells are more common – and in Suffolk County – home to the city of Boston and served by a public water supply – rated their water quality at home as “excellent” at higher rates than those living in other parts of the state. But those living in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities – midsize urban areas served by public water and historically affected by socioeconomic challenges – reported their home tap water quality levels are lower than elsewhere.

The results are based on a survey of 1,013 Massachusetts residents by the MassINC Polling Group. Responses were collected via online survey Aug. 7-16, 2023, in English and Spanish.  Data was weighted to known and estimated population parameters on age, gender, race, party identification, education and geography. The credibility interval for the survey is +/- 3.4 percentage points, including the design effect. 

Detailed poll data is available online at the following link: https://www.massincpolling.com/the-topline/water-quality-poll

Tracey Weeden, MSW, LCSW/LICSW; RCAP Solutions Board of Directors, Vice Chair

Tracey Weeden is the Executive Director of Brockton Behavioral Health Facility at Boston Medical Center and joined the RCAP Solutions Board of Directors in January of 2021.

She has extensive experience in the healthcare and nonprofit arena, with a background in administration, behavioral health, and homelessness prevention. In her previous position as Chief Operating Officer for First Step of Sarasota, she focused on affordable behavioral health treatment and system of care optimization. She also has experience managing a private practice as a psychotherapist.

Tracey was drawn to social work because of her childhood experiences growing up in an urban environment. She remarked “there was a lot of violence, parentification, mental illness, and substance misuse. But amid the prevalence of trauma, there was also so much hope for a better way of life. At an early age I was interested in other people’s stories and potential. When I went to college, I did not know what I wanted to do, but knew I wanted to break the cycle of oppression in the community I had grown up in. I majored in social work, and it just felt right. At an early age, I felt sensitive to others’ needs and seemed to be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes. Although I don’t make it a practice to disclose my experiences, oftentimes I deeply understand the barriers to quality of life clients experience.”

Tracey is a former employee of RCAP Solutions, where she was a member of the leadership team, as Director of Counseling and Homeless Services. “When I was at RCAP, I absolutely loved the work,” she commented. “Working at RCAP, I showed up 100% every day for the organization and our clients. They were long days, but it was all worth it. RCAP is deeply mission driven. RCAP’s services for people in need is undeniable. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community, helping people where they are and supporting them as they move to a better place? RCAP’s work aligns with my values and everything I stand for as a social worker, a woman, and a woman of color.”

Tracey went on to say “RCAP’s work comes down to people helping people. This resonates with me and is what’s unique about RCAP. The employees genuinely want their clients to achieve a better quality of life. At RCAP we are paying it forward.”

Tracey feels strongly about being an active board member. “I want to be a real objective resource to the leadership team and a sounding board. I understand the culture and dynamics as a social worker and as a businesswoman.”

When talking about her experience serving on the board, Tracey exclaimed, “It’s been fun! I like the diverse expertise the volunteer team brings to the table. The board is open to looking at things differently and trying new ideas. This will determine the sustainability of the organization overall. The board is engaged, understands the impact of the work, and is realistic about what it takes to provide services. It’s very exciting to be a part of this energized board.”

When asked about her future goals for the organization, she replied, “I hope that a year from now we are in the process of implimenting a successful, operational, and people-driven strategic plan. I believe we can really put RCAP on the map as a leader in all aspects of community and environmental services.”

Tracey is a self-published author and has volunteered for the City of Worcester’s Human Rights Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s suicide prevention initiative. She is currently a Commissioner for the Massachusetts Status of Woman of Plymouth County. Tracey earned a MS in social work at Boston University and is working towards her Doctorate degree in Business Administration with a focus in Health Services Administration at Northcentral University. She brings a deep understanding of the programmatic, funding, and strategic needs of the organization, along with nonprofit leadership, fundraising and community outreach.

When asked about her personal and professional achievements, Tracey commented, “it was always a goal for me to do more of the work in helping others to grow and lift themselves out of traumatic environments. I’m proud of that. In this field of social work, there are not many Black People or Native Americans in leadership positions. I don’t see a lot of “me” represented and I will never take it for granted. I hope to be an example and to inspire others.”

In her free time, Tracey enjoys creating things. “I love candle making, jewelry making, upcycling furniture, gardening, and creating a new space in my yard or home. It helps me relax. Being creative helps me to think outside of the box overall. I enjoy focusing on the hobby and it’s extremely relaxing for me.”

This workshop will discuss six (6) topics:

  • Day 1 is SDWA Regulatory Overview, Large Building WQ issues, Main Breaks/Cross Connections
  • Day 2 is Flushing, Contaminants of Concern: Manganese, Source Water Assessment and Protection

This “Basic Math” course is a refresher course for those looking to brush up on their basic math skills, whether for daily operation calculations or in preparation for an operator’s exam. We will start at the beginning, quickly covering the basics of rounding, fractions, percentages, and geometry, then will spend a bit more time on conversion factors and re-arranging equations.

RCAP Solutions’ 2022 Impact Report – A Year of Rejuvenation

2022 was a year marked by growth, development, and ultimately rejuvenation as RCAP Solutions began its rebound from a tumultuous and transformational time. View our 2022 Impact Report to learn more about last year’s accomplishments and check out stories from the people we serve!

We thank our partners and continued supporters and invite you to join us as we continue to work towards a collective vision of a world made up of strong and resilient communities and individuals, confident in their potential and with ownership of their success.

We look forward to a productive 2023 as we remain steadfast in our commitment to fulfilling our mission: To foster personal and public self-reliance and improve the quality of life for individuals, families, and the communities in which they live.

Synergy Spotlight: Meet Rebekah Novak, Community Specialist

Rebekah Novak is her name and wastewater is her game, among several other skills and subject interests. Rebekah has a versatile background; she’s worked in several municipal surveying, engineering, and wastewater operations roles – making her an extremely valuable addition to the Community & Environmental Resources team at RCAP Solutions.

She began her career as an intern for the city of New Bedford, Massachusetts’ engineering department, eventually becoming a full-time employee and earning the title of Municipal Surveyor. During her time with the city of New Bedford, Rebekah was responsible for transferring paper maps into digital GIS (Geographic Information System) versions. She also worked in the field overseeing road reconstruction and improvement projects.

Two of Rebekah’s passions are learning and helping. While she was working as a surveyor, Rebekah continued to expand her knowledge, pursuing her wastewater operator’s license and eventually earning a grade 5 license. Rebekah had always been fascinated with water re-use and environmental sustainability. Turning wastewater into treated effluent (sewage that has been cleaned and discharged back into the environment) is a necessary process for communities of all sizes, and this process piqued Rebekah’s interest.

After working as an associate engineer for several years, Rebekah eventually dived head-first into wastewater (not literally), first working at the Ashfield Wastewater Treatment Plant, a few years later at the city of Northampton, Massachusetts’ Wastewater Treatment Plant, and later at Green Wastewater Solutions as an operator/installer of Orenco wastewater treatment systems.

Rebekah prided herself in being a female who was tackling these surveying, engineering, and wastewater roles – as the fields are often male-dominated. It was difficult, but her determination and drive helped her excel in these fields. “Being a woman straight out of college was super intimidating,” she said, “but I still did it. I still showed up and did my best.”

Rebekah eventually joined RCAP Solutions in 2019, where she works with small communities in Massachusetts, providing technical assistance and training to help them improve both their wastewater and drinking water operations. Rebekah lives in a small, rural community herself, so she recognizes the struggles that these communities face when it comes to limited resources and not knowing the answer to everything. Advice she gives to the communities she serves – as well as her co-workers – is to embrace trial-and-error, “Get comfortable with not knowing exactly what to do, it’s okay not to know. [You have to] jump in the muddy water and figure out how to do it.”

During the pandemic, Rebekah was instrumental in transitioning in-person trainings and workshops into a virtual format. She embraced new software and became a leader for her colleagues, constantly offering them support and assistance with the new technology. In addition to managing numerous training events, she also has anywhere from 10 to 13 of the aforementioned technical assistance projects active at a time.

Rebekah’s contributions were noted by Jim Starbard, Regional Director (MA/CT/RI), who said, “Rebekah is an exceptional team member who goes the extra mile for the communities she works with. She is highly skilled in wastewater – both centralized and decentralized, GIS, and is a great trainer. Rebekah’s contributions to the Southern New England Team and RCAP Solutions as a whole are greatly appreciated and highly regarded.”

In addition, Rebekah is passionate about many causes including local farming, sourcing food locally and humanely, and supporting small businesses. She has experience volunteering at a homeless shelter and during her free time enjoys gardening, arts and crafts, and spending time with her husband, two cats, and “Hoss” – her 180-pound Neapolitan Mastiff-Great Dane mix.

Andrew Evans, fellow Community Specialist, added, “Rebekah’s organizational capability, attitude, and attention to detail makes her one of my favorite people to work with. Whatever the project or training she is always seeking the best product or outcome possible for our clients. The way she approaches her work has helped me be a better technical assistance provider and trainer.”

Fun Facts About Rebekah:

  • Hometown: Conway, Massachusetts
  • Favorite Book: Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  • Favorite Movie: Tremors directed by Ron Underwood
  • Favorite Hobbies: Gardening (flowers & vegetables), arts & crafts (dot art painting, jewelry making)
  • Place She’d Like to Travel to: Alaska

Gosnold is a town which encompasses the Elizabeth Islands in Dukes County, Massachusetts. The community has a population of about 70 residents, making it the least populous town in Massachusetts. Most of these residents live on the outermost island, Cuttyhunk.

The beautiful landscapes and ocean views make this community a well sought-after travel destination and the year-round residents have a deep appreciation for the island. However, the island’s seclusion poses several challenges for infrastructure improvements. Personnel, equipment, and materials must be brought to the island via boat, significantly increasing costs.

Cuttyhunk Island’s drinking water comes from an underground aquifer, which is drawn from a series of groundwater wells. These wells, and the island’s distribution system water mains, were constructed in the 1960s. Due to the age of this infrastructure, the community has had frequent problems with leaks and breaks in the water mains.

To address these issues, the community began planning a significant water system improvement project to replace the groundwater wells, upgrade their water pumping station, and improve their storage tank site. In addition, several thousand feet of water mains would be replaced or repaired to ensure residents across the island had continued access to clean drinking water.

RCAP Solutions leapt into action to assist the community in finding and securing funding for the system improvements. After reviewing the community’s plan and engineering report, RCAP Solutions determined that the best funding option available would be through the United States Department of Agriculture.

RCAP Solutions acted as a liaison between the community’s board of selectmen and the USDA staff. The RCAP Solutions team worked alongside the board of selectmen every step of the way, from the initial application to implementation, ensuring the necessary paperwork was submitted and deadlines were met. In addition, RCAP Solutions persists to be an available resource for the community, providing them with continued technical assistance, resources, and training opportunities.

In total, approximately $5.7 million was leveraged for the project, including around $3 million from USDA Rural Development and around $2.7 million from various state programs and town matching funds. To celebrate this milestone, the community held a groundbreaking event and walking tour as construction on the project began.

Open for Business Program Case Study: Neck-O Pillow, Supportive Guidance to Launch a Supportive Product

Written By: Madison Wellman, Coalition Manager/Business Opportunity Specialist

BACKGROUND: Ms. Ellen Sheehan is a dental hygienist from Wilmington, Massachusetts. While working in the dental office she noticed a need for a new product; an ergonomic pillow to support the necks of her patients on and off the dental chair. After much hard work, Ms. Sheehan developed a prototype pillow in her spare time that she felt was ready for full production. She approached Workers Credit Union for financing to launch her new enterprise, Neck-O Pillow. Workers Credit Union could see the value in Ms. Sheehan’s business, but in order to secure the loan she needed an appropriate business plan and projections, neither of which Ms. Sheehan was prepared to produce on her own.

THE CHALLENGE: Entrepreneurial success requires, among other things, a broad skillset including accounting, marketing, planning, and managerial skills. The easiest way to develop these skills is through experience and formal business education. However, these avenues are not equally accessible to all aspiring entrepreneurs. This disparity has produced a shared sense of underdeveloped entrepreneurial capacity in communities across the country, both urban and rural. Lack of educational opportunities, poor connectivity infrastructure, and a general absence of human capital capable of providing mentorship and expertise in our communities all contribute to the high business failure rate in our nation’s villages, small towns, and even larger cities. RCAP is striving to surmount these obstacles by delivering the absent human capital to communities across the country in a cost-effective manner. In meeting this challenge, RCAP is building permanent entrepreneurial capacity among every-day Americans.

THE APPROACH & SOLUTION: To rise to the challenge detailed above, RCAP launched the Open for Business Program. The program delivers business expertise to rural communities through webinars, online workshops, and one-on-one business consultations made available to entrepreneurs at no cost. All services are delivered remotely to reduce cost and maximize geographic reach.

Ellen Sheehan utilized this program to receive free guidance from RCAP’s experienced consultants. The RCAP consulting team worked with Ms. Sheehan to develop her business plan and financial projections to model her path to success. At the time of this writing, Ms. Sheehan received 159.5 hours of free one-on-one consulting assistance.

THE IMPACT: The most tangible impact of the assistance received by Ms. Sheehan is the business plan and projections that she was able to produce with the guidance of our senior consultants. These documents enabled Ms. Sheehan to return to Workers Credit Union and successfully apply for SBA small business financing. With her secured capital, Ms. Sheehan was able to contract with a Massachusetts-based contract manufacturer to begin production of her pillows. The senior consulting team was also able to advise Ms. Sheehan on her digital marketing strategy and guide her in the complicated process of becoming a successful seller on Amazon. Today, she is steadily making sales and receiving substantial traffic on her website.

Despite these material benefits to Ms. Sheehan and her business, the greatest impact may be more intangible. The projections Ms. Sheehan produced with the assistance of our team did convince the lender that Ms. Sheehan’s business had great potential for growth but more importantly, it convinced Ms. Sheehan that her business idea was feasible and has the potential to grow into a successful enterprise.

In a follow-up interview conducted for the purposes of this case study, Ms. Sheehan shared that over one year since she first engaged with RCAP she still looks back at the original projections she made with our team for inspiration. “Seeing that growth potential on paper still keeps me going,” Ms. Sheehan reported. Ms. Sheehan went on to share that the knowledge our consultants brought to her was invaluable and that their flexible availability and positive demeanor reassured her that she, and Neck-O Pillow, could succeed. If not for RCAP’s Open for Business Program, it is likely that Ms. Sheehan never would have launched Neck-O Pillow. In her own words, “getting your contact info was the best thing that could have happened to me…I don’t think I could have done this without you guys.”

RCAP Solutions and the New England Water Environment Association (NEWEA) are hosting an in-person workshop for small and rural wastewater utilities to build financial, managerial, and operational capacity for their systems. Coffee, donuts, and lunch are included.

This course is intended to inform environmental health professionals everything they need to know about private wells. Topics will include:

  • Private Wells vs. Public Water Systems
  • Groundwater and Well Construction
  • Common Contaminants and Testing

Need help managing your finances? Interested in developing a sustainable spending plan? At this workshop you will learn about managing personal finances and be empowered to make better decisions in order to achieve financial stability for yourself and your family!

Proposed Legislation Would Enable Statewide Drinking Water Protections and Financial Assistance for Massachusetts Households With Private Wells

Right now, many Massachusetts residents who rely on private wells are consuming water that may be unsafe. Over 500,000 people throughout the Commonwealth rely on these wells, yet there are no statewide regulations to ensure private well water is safe from harmful contaminants such as PFAS, arsenic, radon, uranium, and more. In contrast, public water systems are regulated by the state and are subject to routine monitoring.

In January 2023, Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representative Dan Sena, and Representative Smitty Pignatelli filed legislation which would provide equitable access to safe drinking water for all Massachusetts residents – regardless of where they live and what their financial resources are.

An Act Promoting Drinking Water Quality for All (S.482/H.902) would enable the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to develop regulations which would provide minimum statewide water quality standards for private wells supplying drinking water.

The regulations themselves would be developed by drinking water experts at MassDEP, likely in consultation with a technical advisory group and with a process for public input. To maximize public benefit, the bill would require MassDEP to evaluate practices to minimize the paperwork burden for affected parties.

In addition, the bill would expand the existing MassHousing Septic Repair Loan Program (SRLP) to provide low-income homeowners with access to financial assistance to remediate contaminated private wells.

“The importance of testing your well water is reflected in this important legislation put forth by Senator Eldridge, Representative Sena, and Representative Pignatelli,” said Brian D. Scales, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “Too many homeowners take for granted that their water is safe and clean. Water is all around us, we bathe in it, cook with it, and drink it on a daily basis. The only way to ensure all this water is clean and safe to consume is to have it tested.”

“We are grateful for the leadership of Senator Eldridge, Representative Sena, and Representative Pignatelli in addressing long-standing drinking water inequities,” explained Amie Shei, PhD, President & CEO of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. “The state regulates the wastewater leaving a home, yet it does not regulate private well water entering a home and being consumed. This legislation closes an important gap in access to safe drinking water.”

RCAP Solutions and The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts are working together to improve access to safe drinking water for private well owners. From 2020 to 2022, the Private Well Program to Protect Public Health, which has received nearly $1.5 million in grant funding from the Foundation, has conducted over 500 water quality tests across several Massachusetts towns and found that approximately 32% of wells had levels of contaminants exceeding state health standards and/or suggesting potential health risks. The Coalition for Safe Drinking Water was recently formed as a way to engage a wide range of stakeholders in working together to ensure safe drinking water for all Massachusetts residents.

For more information about this legislation, our private well programming, and the Coalition for Safe Drinking Water, please visit: www.whatsinyourwellwater.org.