Helping Those Who Help

For a sense of what the Vineyard Nursing Association means to many Islanders, read the final lines of obituaries published in the Gazette. More than a few of them ask that, in lieu of flowers, people remember the deceased by donating to the association, which provides home nursing care.

Perhaps the requests are based on general knowledge that the association is a worthy cause. More likely is that the requests are in quiet tribute to weeks or months of nursing care provided to people facing illness and the end of their lives.

The nursing association, a nonprofit organization, needs financial support from the community to continue its work. That need has grown sharply this year, with the association’s rapid absorption of approximately seventy clients of the Visiting Nurse Service, which was shut down in June by its parent, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

The good news is that the association, working with the Visiting Nurse Service, has been able to maintain care for patients during the transition. But to cope with a client base that has more than doubled, the association has had to move to a larger operations center and hire more nurses and aides to help meet the demand. While executive director Robert Tonti anticipates the nonprofit still will record a surplus for the fiscal year, the association also has had to take on more debt.

On Wednesday evening, the association held its annual fund-raiser, a clambake. Earlier this week, Mr. Tonti said, “In the past we’ve always regarded the fund-raiser as vital, this year it’s absolutely critical . . . it’s sort of a make-or-break event this year.”

Two hundred people came to the clambake, about the same as last year. The organization likely will net forty thousand dollars from the event. Coming in the midst of a weakening economy, the turnout heartened Mr. Tonti.

What gives hope, despite any short-term fluctuations in the nonprofit’s finances, is the association’s dedication to its mission to provide home health care on the Island — a mission all the more crucial with the disappearance of the Visiting Nurse Service.

Speaking about taking on the additional patients, Mr. Tonti said, “We felt we had an obligation to this community . . . we are never going to turn down people in need of care.”

Nor should Islanders turn down the Vineyard Nursing Association when it seeks their help. This is a mission well worth their support.