Tomorrow’s 24th annual great chowder contest is about more than a good cup of steaming, milky soup brimming with clams and potatoes. The contest raises money for The Red Stocking Fund.
The event begins at noon tomorrow at the Edgartown Mini Park.
The committee that organizes the event is still deliberating about whether to raise the entry fee above last year’s $5. At press time there still had been no decision.
But whatever the cost, it is worth it. The Red Stocking Fund provides clothing and gifts for needy Island children. Last year the fund helped 345 children; this year the need is greater than ever.
“People are losing their jobs right and left,” said Barbara A. Silvia, Red Stocking treasurer for 22 years. “I am seeing people that I have never seen before in need,” she said. “Everybody is trying to help.”
The chowder contest is one of a handful of key fund-raisers for Red Stocking. Earlier in the fall the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders held their annual toys for tots run to raise money for Red Stocking. In January radio station WMVY hosts a chili contest; proceeds go to Red Stocking.
The chowder contest is the last fund-raiser of the year for the organization. About 10 contestants will submit their best quahaug chowder for judging.
Participants include the Net Result fish market in Vineyard Haven, the Plane View restaurant at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport and the cafeteria crew from the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. There are at least seven others.
Bob Jackson, chef for the Plane View, said his recipe comes from a Coast Guard chef who won the contest about 10 years ago.
Kerry Alley, Red Stocking co-chairman with Lorraine Clark, said last month the fund distributed over $10,000 in food certificates to families in need. “We’ve done more food this year and will distribute another $10,000 this month,” Mr. Alley said. “We hope to do it again in March if we can,” he added.
In the past the fund has given out $7,000 three times during the winter, in November, December and March.
Mr. Alley said the fund is doing better than he expected this year, considering the tough economic times.
“I actually expected it to be worse than it is. Contributors have come forward knowing the hard economic times,” he said. He also said public libraries have stepped in to fill the gap left by the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, which used to give free books to Red Stocking children. The bookstore was ruined in the Fourth of July fire on Main street Vineyard Haven and is in the process of rebuilding under a new business owner.
“A longtime friend to the Red Stocking Fund sent us a box full of books, maybe 100 books,” Mr. Alley said.
The Red Stocking Fund does not buy toys. “The economy is in a terrible state. People can’t afford to pay their mortgage and get things for their kids. We get warm clothing for the children. This lets the parents go out and buy a toy,” Mrs. Silvia said. She got involved in the Red Stocking Fund after having a tough winter with her family 23 years ago. Her husband was working as a plumber at the time and she was trying to raise three children. “I was working. I had three jobs. I was housecleaning, babysitting and taking care of three children three years old, five years old and six years old. It was terrible. It was a hard winter for everyone,” she said.
After her experience, Mrs. Silvia joined the fund as treasurer as a way to give back. The deadline for applications for assistance from the Red Stocking Fund was early this week, but in the event of an emergency the fund will try to help.
Mrs. Clark said while she thinks the number of children who will get support this winter will be about the same as last year, the level of financial hardship on the Island is worse. “The people who apply don’t have it. They don’t have jobs. Rents are sky high. Home heating oil is sky high,” Mrs. Clark said, adding: “We have people leaving the Island. And we don’t know how it will end up.”
Tax-deductible contributions to the Red Stocking Fund can be sent to P.O. Box 74, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.