The list this year is for more than 300 children.

And volunteers at the Red Stocking Fund have checked it twice and are already deep into shopping for shoes, warm winter coats and pajamas for needy Island children.

Oh, and don’t forget the bicycles — which are not bought but donated; the 73-year-old fund does not buy toys but accepts donations of them for children.

“My daughter has 12 bicycles in her home,” declared Kerry Alley of Oak Bluffs, who codirects the Red Stocking Fund with Lorraine Clark of Vineyard Haven.

Last week the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders donated $16,000 to the fund following their annual toys for tots ride around the Vineyard.

On the day the fund received that contribution, Mr. Alley wrote a check for $8,500 to buy food for needy families with children.

A crew of at least seven Red Stocking elves were out shopping this week, and later next month a large team of volunteers will gather at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven for wrapping and sorting gifts which will be distributed to families. It is a sight that never fails to amaze every year: Nearly every square inch of space in the church is stacked high with hundreds of gifts.

Last year, the fund had a budget of $65,000 and spent closer to $75,000 to help over 400 children. This year, the fund already has more than 300 children on the list and counting, as applications continue to come in.

“We just don’t know at this time what we are looking at when it comes to numbers,” Mr. Alley said.

Red Stocking works in a variety of ways. Mr. Alley said this year a number of Island businesses have each adopted a family. Because the names of the people who receive assistance are confidential, the businesses do not know their family, at least by name. But they receive a list of needs, genders and clothing sizes and go shopping as if they did, he said.

Edgartown School students will collect food for the Red Stocking Fund in the weeks ahead.

Last year the fund spent $13,000 on food. Three times during the year the fund distributes grocery store gift cards to families in need; the last distribution takes place in March, the leanest time of the year when family budgets are depleted from heating bills through the long winter months. Mr. Alley said it is a critical time of need for many Islanders.

Red Stocking fundraisers include the annual Big Chili Contest which is sponsored by radio station WMVY in late January. The date for the contest this year is Saturday, Jan. 28.

In recent years the fund has extended its reach to the Brazilian community on the Island. Application forms for Red Stocking are now written in Portuguese and English, and the fund relies on bilingual assistance from Maria Mouzinho, a Brazilian Islander who works as a community health outreach educator with the Vineyard Health Care Access Program. “She knows the families and knows those who are in need,” Mr. Alley said. He said Ms. Mouzinho has been assisting the Red Stocking Fund for nine years.

“I understand what people are going through,” Ms. Mouzinho said in an interview this week. “When I first came here I didn’t speak English. I had no family or friends. I just had my husband and my kids and nobody to go to for help. I had to learn everything by myself. I do understand so many of the problems people encounter.”

Among other things, Ms. Mouzinho helps needy Brazilian Islanders with their applications. “She signs the applicant’s form and uses her own little stamp. We are in touch with her almost daily. She’ll come out over to Grace Church to help us sort out all kinds of things,” said Mr. Alley.

Mrs. Mouzinho praised the work of the fund. “I think it is wonderful what they do for the whole community, not just the Brazilian community,” she said. “This is a wonderful program.”

There are many other quiet contributors to the Red Stocking Fund. One standout leader in the Harley Rider fund-raising effort is 79-year-old Donald Ben David of Oak Bluffs. This year Mr. Ben David single-handedly raised $11,000 from Island businesses and friends. “I have my list of clientele that I go too. They know me,” he said. “I start on Labor Day in Menemsha. I walk into a store, or some place, and I say, ‘It is that time of year.’ I have a lot of fun doing this.”


Due to unexpected illness, the mailing address for the Red Stocking Fund has temporarily been changed to Box 600, Edgartown, MA 02539. All tax-deductible donations and communications should go to this address until further notice. Inquiries can be directed via e-mail to or phone calls to 508-693-2324. Contributions can also be dropped off at Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank locations.