It’s Summer: Enjoy and Engage!
You may have heard Aesop’s quote, “After all is said and done, more is said than done.”
For Sam Feldman, philanthropy and getting involved is a way of life and, when Sam gets involved, it’s always, “when all is said and done, more is done than is said.”
Introduced to philanthropy at a young age by his mother and father, Sam started to get engaged himself early in life, including serving on the board of a large Baltimore hospital at age 21.
Sam was a successful businessman and has given a lot of time, talent and treasure to Vineyard causes over the last 25 years. Using entrepreneurial and business skills, he helped start nonprofits to address Vineyard issues that were important to him. One of his most visible causes is Mopeds Are Dangerous. A tragic and fatal moped accident many years ago prompted him to form the campaign. He took immediate action, had all those bumper stickers printed, distributes them tirelessly and speaks passionately about this serious issue.
Sitting on the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative board with Sam (he was one of the founders of the collaborative, whose mission is to strengthen Island nonprofits and advocate for increased philanthropy on the Vineyard), I grew to respect all he was doing to protect the Island. I had a conversation with him about philanthropy, the Island, how his commitment to the nonprofit world got started, why it’s important to him and why it’s especially important on the Vineyard.
Sam first came to the Island to visit friends and fell in love with the quiet of the beaches. He loved the rural feeling, the topographical variety, the wide range of people here, the commitment to protecting what was special and the sense of tranquility.
As he spent more time here, eventually building a house, he learned that there were many people doing creative things to protect the character of the Island: the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, historic districts, smart zoning, affordable housing, social services, aggressive conservation organizations and recycling, to name just a few.
Sam quickly recognized that so much of the richness of the Vineyard is supported and nurtured by the nonprofit community. That community not only provides what seasonal folks desire in the arts, culture, creativity, sports and protection of natural resources, but also provides essential social services and health care to support seasonal residents, visitors and year-rounders.
During our conversation, Sam mentioned that the Vineyard offers something else: the entrepreneurial and start-up business skills of a seasonal Vineyarder can be applied successfully here. Matching an Island need to retain agricultural capability and to provide education led him to be a founder of The Farm Institute. When he lost his wife and beloved lifelong partner Gretchen a few years ago, he found there was little to support men’s bereavement so he started a men’s bereavement group on the Vineyard that has now become NationalWidowers.org. Sam also served on the founding board of the Polly Hill Arboretum. He and Gretchen were involved in the startup and funding of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School and were active with the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society. He talks and does. As Sam said, one person, or a few together, can make a big impact on Island issues.
As he got more involved, Sam discovered many others contributing their time, talent and treasure. Sam joined them. He could not just come here and experience the Island as a special place, but felt compelled to join in nurturing what they, too, had come to love and value.
As others have through the years, Sam pointed out that the Vineyard in some ways is a microcosm of our country, facing many of the same challenges — housing, social services, education, safety, health care and jobs. He said the Island as a combined year-round, seasonal and visitor community is both big enough to have these issues, and just as important, small enough to tackle them effectively. The key is in harnessing the necessary human and financial resources and will.
Significantly, Sam found immeasurable personal joy and fulfillment in being an active part of the community supporting the nonprofits that enrich our lives and help sustain the Island.
So what can others do? The summer is upon us. It’s a time for many to come to the Vineyard, to benefit again from what we love. I join others on the Island in a call for everyone to protect what we love and to get involved in ways such as sitting on a board, volunteering or contributing financially to the issues one cares about.
To help you learn more about Island issues and the organizations that could use your help, the Martha’s Vineyard Donor’s Collaborative has published Understanding The Vineyard. You can pick up a copy at Cronig’s Market, Bunch of Grapes, Edgartown Bookstore, Morning Glory Farm, Grey Barn and Farm, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, Conroy Apothecary and Julie Robinson Interiors, or you can download it from mvdonors.org. The website also has a directory of nonprofits describing their missions and listing their contact information.
When you catch yourself noticing and appreciating something special about the Island that you’re grateful for, or a problem that needs solving, think about the institutions and the many people who work to solve these issues — and then, like Sam and many others, get involved in ways that work for you. The Island will be an even better place if you do, and your Island experience will be enriched.
Thank you Sam for all you have done and continue to do.
Gerald S. Jones is a Martha’s Vineyard Donor’s Collaborative Board member. He lives in Edgartown.