Angel Flight Northeast is one of the unsung heroes of Island life: a group of pilots who offer free transport to people needing access to medical care. The organization is now in its 15th year, having served Martha’s Vineyard since 1997. As of June 4 (the last time statistics were tallied), Angel Flight NE had scheduled more than 8,600 flights and flown 5,400 missions for Vineyard residents. This equates to $1.7 million in donated time and expenses for patients and their families living on Martha’s Vineyard. In 2010 alone, the flight coordination team scheduled 1,400 flights for Vineyard residents.

Islanders have an opportunity to give back, and help keep the organization aloft, this Thursday evening at Nectar’s. Avalon Magazine and Fashion Week MV are teaming up to present Fashion Takes Flight, an affordable evening of music and a runway fashion show. All ticket proceeds going directly to Angel Flight NE.

The more you learn about Angel Flight, the more remarkable the organization becomes. Their philosophy is to help anyone in need. The defining parameter for neediness? Simply asking for help.

“Our screening process is very simple,” said founder Larry Camerlin. “We tell people who call: We’re a nonprofit, our pilots are volunteer, our planes are single or twin-engined, owned by the pilots, usually four to eight-seaters. There are no flight attendants, no bathrooms, but every seat is both a window and an aisle, and they’re all in the cockpit. We’d love to help you. What time is your appointment?”

In the summer, in a community like Martha’s Vineyard, such an open-hearted attitude is occasionally — but only rarely — abused by people who do not really need the service. “We’ve had a few people who flew with us once or twice and then said, ‘Oh, geez, it’s wonderful to be here in the summer, we winter in Switzerland, we just closed our penthouse in Manhattan,’” said Mr. Camerlin. “And we say, ‘Don’t you think this is not the most appropriate way for you to fly?’”

Pilot Mike Shabazian makes the most of his encounters with such people: “If I have a sense of [being taken advantage of], I go the extra mile and make sure they understand that the pilots volunteer everything, that it’s all out of our own pocket. I really go into the preaching mode as opposed to the begging-for-dollars mode, but I also tell them whom to call if they want to make a donation. Then the second time, if I know there is somebody who is clearly taking advantage of it, I just won’t fly them again. You help them out the first time, you encourage them to want to help the organization, and then they do as they want and we pilots do as we want.”

The majority of people flown by Angel Flight NE are middle-class, whose lives and budgets would be thrown into harsh disarray by the logistics and expenses of getting on-and-off-Island on a regular basis for, say, radiation treatments. Pilots and non-pilots (“Earth Angels”) cover all expenses themselves, including fuel for transportation. They have helped hundreds of Vineyard families, and inspire a feeling of community generosity and joy almost on a par with Built on Stilts.

The generosity is real, but no amount of volunteering time and energy can cover all the costs of running such a remarkable service. Angel Flight NE requires an annual budget of $1 million to function. The donated efforts from pilots and Earth Angels is worth $4 million, so each one dollar collected in cash allows for five dollars worth of actual services. But still, the $1 million must be raised each year. This helps to cover the cost of, among other things: office rent and utilities; outreach programs; pilot orientation programs; and a staff to weave the extremely intricate web connecting pilots, passengers, airports, hospitals, doctors and ground transport.

The Avalon Magazine/Fashion Week event on Thursday will give Islanders a fun opportunity to help the group. The price is low for an haute couture fundraiser: $30 a person. “We really want the folks who have used Angel Flight to be able to come out, and all the ticket money goes to Angel Flight,” said event organizer Rob Scherer. “Nectar’s has been great, they basically donated the space. There are some production costs we have to cover, but they are so minimal.”

The doors will open at 9 pm. Deejay Di will be on hand to entertain musically, and guests can buy Flatbread pizza, or wine from the event’s sponsor, Francis Ford Coppola winery. At about 9:45, the fashion show itself will start.

“There’ll be a runway, which will come right off the stage,” said Mr. D’Entremont. “That’s why we wanted to do it at Nectar’s, it’s a wonderful room for this. There will be five Island retailers showing their clothing being modeled, but the finale of the night is (Island designer) Lorraine Parish and her designs.”

Avalon Magazine, which began in 2010, is an Island-based magazine. “We wanted to host this award to celebrate our first-year anniversary,” said editor Linda Black. “And we wanted to do it in some way that gave back to our home community.”

Although there will be no retail items available at the fundraiser, guests will be able to see what is sold at Red Mannequin, Blue Moon, Bananas, Pandora’s, Dhukkha and Laughing Bear.


Doors open at Nectar’s at 9 p.m. on Thursday, August 18, for Fashion Takes Flight. Tickets are $30, or $50 for premium front row seating. Tickets are available at,, The Paper Store, Aboveground Records, The Green Room, Corner 5, and Alley’s General Store

Also, save the date of Sunday, Sept. 25 for the Angel Flgiht NE Wings of Hope Fundraiser in honor of Alan Campbell and Kathleen Gillis, at Farm Neck Golf Club in Oak Bluffs at 2 p.m.


If you cannot attend and would like to make a contribution go to for donation information.