It takes many kind friends to make life on the Vineyard a special place. Jack Ware, 80, of Vineyard Haven was honored last Friday morning for embodying the Island spirit of volunteerism. He was honored at a breakfast gathering at the old agricultural hall in West Tisbury as the first recipient of the Spirit of the Vineyard Award, offered by one of the Island’s top nonprofit organizations.
Connie Malm, the president of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, told the gathering of 95 people: “Volunteers are an important part of Hospice and what we do.” She said her organization depends almost entirely on volunteers to help people in need. The organization could think of no better way to begin an annual award for volunteers than to recognize one of its most highly regarded.
She stood before a hand-painted rainbow on cloth, the symbol of the local organization. Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard offers comfort and friendship to the terminally ill at their time of greatest need.
Charles Simberg of Oak Bluffs, a friend of Hospice, came up with the idea of honoring a volunteer last June. In a lengthy nomination process begun this summer, a committee reviewed 28 candidates for the first award. Mrs. Malm said her committee was impressed by how active Mr. Ware has been in many arenas in the Island community. Other speakers agreed.
Emily Bramhall of Chilmark said: “We are very fortunate, here on Martha’s Vineyard, to have so many people who tirelessly volunteer their time, talents and effort for the betterment of both individual and community life. The Spirit of the Vineyard award was created to acknowledge and honor those people who stand out.”
Miss Bramhall said: “Jack has consistently served the Island in many ways and over many years and does so in a style which sets very high standards.
“He was a founder and currently serves as chairman of the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha’s Vineyard, he has served in many capacities in town government in the town of Tisbury, has served as interim director of Community Services, more than once, and has served in his church as well as volunteering for off-Island interests.”
Another speaker was Ron Rappaport, also of Chilmark, a Steamship Authority governor and member of the board of the Permanent Endowment Fund. Mr. Rappaport praised Mr. Ware for his ability to start projects and bring resolution to difficult problems. “He walks through minefields and comes out with people talking kindly of him.”
Ned Robinson-Lynch, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, spoke of his arrival on the Island in 1989 and being told that he needed to network with the community and that Mr. Ware was the best man to meet to get started. Mr. Robinson-Lynch said Mr. Ware was the founder of the Windsurfing Challenge, a fall sailing race now in its 11th year. He said he event alone has brought $100,000 into his agency.
The Rev. Donnel O’Flynn, the recently installed rector of Grace Episcopal Church, is Mr. Ware’s newest friend. Mr. O’Flynn said in the days following his arrival on the Island, he met someone who said, “Oh you go to Jack’s church.”
Others spoke well of Mr. Ware, but it was Mr. Ware who spoke the best about volunteerism, and he, too, offered praise to those involved in the community.
“Whether born here, arriving in youth, midlife, or in retirement, we share the beauty of our land, shore and water, and a sense of belonging that can come even with a first visit - although it grows stronger with time,” Mr. Ware said.
“Why is it the natural response of so many of us, often over many years, to willingly play some part as volunteers? I suppose there are as many answers as there are volunteers.”
Mr. Ware said there are so many of them on the Island: “willingly accepting positions on various boards and committees, in religious activities, book and discussion groups, scouting and youth sports, arts and crafts, school and parenting bodies, with EMTs, and at the hospital, for Red Stocking and on and on.
“And last, but I think not least, are those who willingly run for or accept appointment to the many nonprofit posts in our local government that depend so largely on volunteers.”
In response to receiving the award, Mr. Ware said: “This valued award was a most unexpected and much appreciated birthday present. Again, please know, I am both humbled and delighted.”