By MARK ALAN LOVEWELL
The Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living is seeking to build a new facility on approximately two acres of land, formerly the Edgartown Water Company office off Meshacket Road. The endeavor, still subject to town approval and to a $3 million capital campaign, is in its infancy.
The water commissioners support the concept. The site was selected by the nonprofit organization as the best of seven sites they’ve considered. They’ve already met with an architect and expect to begin soon a capital campaign to raise the needed funds.
Most of the 22-acre Edgartown Water Department property is already dedicated to the Meshacket well, but there is a small building envelope on the land where the office stands. The water department in January moved their offices from a two-room building to larger new offices at 58 Kavanagh Way, off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
Diane Jetmund, president of the center, and Leslie Clapp, its director, recently gave a presentation at the Vineyard Haven Public Library about the many services their organization provides to the community. Among those is the Supportive Day Program, which is critically in need of a facility to use as permanent home.
The senior day program is for those Island residents who would be at risk if left at home during the day and those who might otherwise suffer from social isolation.
There are about 25 individuals in the four-day-a-week program, two days a week at the Edgartown Council on Aging (the Anchors) and two days a week at the Tisbury Senior Center.
Ms. Jetmund outlined that both the successes of the program and the difficulties of moving between the two centers point to the program’s need for a permanent home. The use of the Edgartown Council on Aging, she said, has to end after 22 years.
Operating the day program in Edgartown on Mondays and Wednesdays and in Tisbury on Tuesdays and Thursdays means the equipment that is in the program has to be transported more than four times a week. The moving from town to town is extremely disruptive and hard on the working staff. She showed a picture of a pickup truck loaded down with supplies that makes the trip from location to location, daily.
Ms. Clapp spoke of the need to help those who are aging stay involved in the community. “You can’t be alone all the time and be healthy,” she said.
Ms. Jetmund said it is important to get the message out about the organization’s role in the community to serve people 55 years of age and older in all the Island towns. She believed some 3,000 people could take advantage of the center’s services.
The Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living has a $225,000 annual budget which offers six programs, from bringing emergency food to the Island, providing free taxi service on Cape Cod, and distributing free food to those in need in all the Island’s councils on aging. They also offer a number of services that bring people together and involve all the Island’s councils on aging.
Island towns support the center with $93,303; the rest of the budget comes through grants, in-kind services and private payment. Ms. Jetmund said that the real dollar value of what the center provides to the Island community is estimated to be over a million dollars.
Ms. Jetmund was asked why the senior population is growing so quickly on the Vineyard. Simply, she answered, it’s a nice place to spend retirement. But not only is the population of older residents growing here, younger families are leaving, and that is problematic, she said, for there won’t be enough people here to offer care, whether it be health care or other services. “We are going to have a gap,” she said.
Ms. Jetmund said she didn’t like using the term “elderly” for the services that are offered by her center. “I hate the word ‘elderly’ in a world that is so youth driven,” she said. For many, she said, the aging process is more an attitude than not. “We should take care of ourselves,” she said.