Just in time for the holidays, there is closure to the long-standing discussion over how to dispense a $16,500 gift to Martha's Vineyard Community Services workers.
The gift - from singer Carly Simon and author Norman Bridwell - funded a one-time bonus to nonmanagerial employees of the health service agency; the money was divided equally among more than 100 of them, amounting to something above $100 each.
Ned Robinson-Lynch, executive director at Community Services, reported the distribution in a letter to Island newspapers this week, but declined to provide details, citing a confidentiality agreement in ongoing contract negotiations with the agency's union employees.
Ms. Simon said she hopes resolution of the issue "stimulates good will" for the contract talks. "I am hopeful those talks will go better. Certainly everybody in management wants their staff to be, if not exuberant, content and feeling compensated," she said.
The ultimate goal, Ms. Simon said, is "to keep these workers on the Island and fairly compensated. There is no doubt in my mind; they weren't being fairly compensated."
Amy Lilavois, licensed mental health counselor with the Island Counseling Center and a union member, welcomed news of the distribution. "It is great to be supported by the community, and that is what the whole experience has been about. Their support is helping us internally mend a lot," she said.
Ms. Lilavois said the action has helped move the union contract talks forward.
But getting to the distribution of this gift took some time. The story had its roots in the early summer, as the contract talks at Community Services bogged down. With the approach of the annual Possible Dreams Auction, featuring Art Buchwald, approaching, Ms. Simon requested that the money raised by her contribution to the auction be earmarked for staff salaries. Management said such a designation could not be made; and Ms. Simon eventually said that she would make a separate contribution for those purposes, after auctioning off a private performance of her song, You're So Vain, for $50,000.
Norman Bridwell, creator of Clifford the Big Red Dog, asked to tie a $1,500 gift to the same cause. Through the end of the summer and fall there was disagreement over how to make such a distribution - how checks could be written, and which employees were eligible to receive such funds.
In October the agency and its two would-be benefactors were at a stalemate on the issue. Mr. Robinson-Lynch's announcement (see Page Eight this morning) revealed the stalemate had been resolved.
"There was a lot of misunderstanding along the way," Ms. Simon said Tuesday. "What I had proposed seemed counterproductive to those people I wanted to help.
"I very much didn't want to hurt Art [Buchwald] or cause a stir," she said.