What is the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living? Originally called the Island Councils on Aging, the Center for Living has served Islanders who are 55 and over for almost 40 years. In 2009, the name was changed to the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living to eliminate confusion and more importantly to change the focus from aging to living. The program continues to be a partner with the town councils on aging and other organizations serving Islanders 55 and older.

Since the organization has a 501c3 nonprofit tax exempt status, it is eligible for grants that government bodies are not eligible for. The Center for Living receives funds from each town on the Vineyard and through state and federal programs.

The largest program, the Supportive Day Program, is unique and very popular, a vital program for individuals who may be at risk if left alone and for caregivers that need to work. The program offers exercise, games, current events and special presentations as well as nutritious meals and snacks provided by a dedicated staff. This professionally run social program has provided support to more than 200 Island families since 1985. Most who participate in the program are transported to and from their homes by the Vineyard Transit Authority.

The Center for Living also produces a special newspaper section for seniors that is a guide to services, programs, activities and information.

It provides taxi transportation to medical appointments on Cape Cod, funded by Elder Services and client donations. During 2009 there were 156 clients who took 689 one-way trips.

It provides emergency food cupboards with staples distributed each month through the local councils on aging in a program funded by Project Bread and Vineyard Committee on Hunger, among others. During the winter, 175 households are served each month. In 2009, 51,579 pounds of food were distributed to Islanders through this program.

It coordinates a delicious luncheon prepared by the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Culinary Arts students with a delightful dining experience once a month during the school year. The luncheon is funded by the high school culinary arts program and private donations.

It administers a program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency that provides emergency funds for fuel and utility assistance. In 2009 14 households kept their lights on, stayed warm, and were able to remain in their homes thanks to this program.

The director is Leslie Clapp. Staff members include Eileen Murphy, Wendy Benedetto, Rose Marie Roberts and Francine James. Board members include Diane Jetmund (president) of West Tisbury, Karen Achille of Oak Bluffs, Shirley Dewing, Olga Church and Nancy Shemeth of Edgartown, Ginger Duarte of Vineyard Haven, Judith Worthington of Chilmark, and this writer. Additional members are needed from each town.

The Supportive Day Program needs a new home, and the Center for Living is looking either to rent or purchase in a central location for this vital program.

The first fund-raising event as the newly formed Center for Living was held at the Portuguese-American Club on June 25 — and it was a huge success. Thanks to the P.A. club for all its help and to the many other volunteers and businesses who contributed. So many people have been generous and supportive and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.

Event planning is under way for next summer.

Donation boxes are located at Howwasswee Trading Post in Aquinnah, Edgartown Pizza and Edgartown Gourmet Bakery, Cronig’s Market, Conroy’s Apothecary, Jim’s Package Store, Tony’s Market, Shirley’s Hardware and Alley’s General Store. Your spare change will make a grand change for many.

We also sell bumper stickers with our logo and our statement: Age Is a Reality — Old is a State of Mind.

Upcoming events include a cultural luncheon series with guest speakers while dining at The Grill. We anticipate having a documentary film produced about the Supportive Day Program and the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living.

If you would like to know more or be notified of upcoming events, please call our director at 508-939-9440, or send your name, address, and e-mail to mvcenter4living@gmail.com. The mailing address is Box 1729, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.

The Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living will hold its second annual meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Tisbury Senior Center. Light refreshments will be served. All are welcome.

Gazette correspondent June Manning writes the Aquinnah column for the Gazette.