Editors, Vineyard Gazette:

The Family to Family Holiday Meals Program, which provides holiday meals to distressed families and is distributed through the Serving Hands Food Distribution at the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven, is again asking for help. For more than eight years, the good people of Martha’s Vineyard (with the help of generous off-Island friends) have come together to help make sure that all families on our Island can celebrate our most special holidays with a healthy, traditional meal. The tradition continues in 2012. But it is endangered.

Thanksgiving approaches, winter will follow and these are hard times. So hard, in fact, that the Family to Family program is only now paying the last of the due bill from our spring meal distribution last April. Our bank account is basically empty. We actually considered not having a Thanksgiving distribution this year. But based on past experience, and the incredible support from the Pacheco family at Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs, who supply us, we are carrying on as usual. The Thanksgiving distribution will take place on the week before Thanksgiving. And we expect to make a Christmas distribution as well, on Dec. 21.

But we’re broke. Obviously we need your support if this tradition is to continue. We earnestly ask you to help us if you can.

Please join our Family to Family Program to help ensure that all Island families in need will have a great Thanksgiving meal and a great Christmas meal. You can sponsor one family by contributing the cost of one meal basket for $25. All money goes to provide food. The

First Baptist Church provides the use of its Parish House without charge, and all of our workers are unpaid volunteers.

The Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets will include a turkey, fresh apples, oranges, potatoes, carrots, onions, squash, eggs, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce and canned pumpkin.

We are in hard economic times and it is more important than ever to continue this tradition. Many families are barely hanging on and are depending on this program. I know because they call me asking for help. It has been extremely gratifying, over the years, to be able to tell people that help is there, thanks to the generosity of donations.

One family sharing with another family is a wonderful way to celebrate an Island holiday. It is a nice feeling for families to feel like they are helping their neighbors. That is, after all, what we do on Martha’s Vineyard.

Last Thanksgiving we gave out 179 meals to over 400 individuals including 90 children. We gave out over 6,000 pounds of food. The Island Grown Gleaners, Morning Glory Farm and Whippoorwill Farm contributed extra produce so families went home with lots of nutritious food.

Please make your checks payable to the Vineyard Committee on Hunger (VCOH), and indicate on the memo line that your contribution is for the Family-to-Family Program. Contributions are tax-deductible. Mail to VCOH, P.O. Box 4685, Vineyard Haven, Mass., 02568 or may make a donation on-line at hungercommittee.org.

For more details, email burtonsundman@hotmail.com or call 508-693-5339.

Betty Burton, Vineyard Haven