It has been another emotion-filled holiday season for the Family-to-Family Holiday Distribution Program. For a decade, this volunteer-run operation has provided the ingredients for healthy holiday meals three times a year — at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and in the spring — to families in need. The distributions take place at the First Baptist Parish House in Vineyard Haven, through the generosity of the church, which donates use of its facility.
For various reasons, including the still-tough economy, cutbacks in government programs, and misfortune in many flavors, there are indeed many families in need on Martha’s Vineyard, and the number is growing. This year we distributed meal baskets to 230 families at Thanksgiving and to 190 families at Christmas (we always see fewer clients in December than we do in November, but both counts are up at least 20 per cent from last year).
This program is entirely funded by donations from the Island community. The good folks at Reliable Market give us a very good price on the provisions we purchase there, but we still need to raise in the neighborhood of $20,000 each year to keep the program going. That’s a lot of money, but fortunately Martha’s Vineyard has a generous heart.
Our steadfast supporters include Lorraine Cottle, Sharon Jackson and Peggy Jackson and the wonderful crew of friends who call themselves Island Entertainment at the Ocean View. As they did last year, this group organized fundraisers for Family-to-Family, spreading joy and compassion and collecting serious dollars in the amount of $3,750. Jane Chandler of the Beach House in Vineyard Haven once again organized a raffle program in which many retail establishments participated. We haven’t heard back from all of them, but we do know the The Black Dog, with the help of a visit from Santa, raised $550 for the program.
The religious community was there for us as well. Jack Street of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard organized a fun campaign, complete with wristbands, and the society came through, providing enough money for meals for seventy families. Heather Ann of St. Andrew’s in Edgartown rallied the parishioners there and the Hebrew Center of Martha’s Vineyard made a generous contribution too. Other faith communities donated as well.
This year the late Doris and David Cron were honored by their friends and family, who knew how much the Crons supported our work. Many memorial contributions were sent in their names. It felt like Dave and Doris were there with us making sure that all were fed.
We also had generous donations of fresh produce from Island farms including Morning Glory and Whippoorwill, and donations of food and sundries from Cronig’s Market.
I apologize to every donor I haven’t mentioned, both groups and individuals. There simply isn’t space; there are too many of you! But I would like you to know that every contribution, of which there were hundreds, in amounts from one dollar to $1,000, was put to good use. (Family-to-Family is a service of the Vineyard Committee on Hunger, a 501c(3) nonprofit organization.)
I would also like to thank the volunteers who make the distributions themselves possible. Moving, sorting, packing, carting more than 12,000 pounds of food is a lot of work — not to mention registering clients and cleaning up the hall afterwards. We had 40 volunteers at Thanksgiving (and a somewhat smaller cadre at Christmas), some helping for the first time, others of whom have been there since Family-to-Family’s inception.
Longtime volunteers experienced decidedly mixed feelings at our Christmas distribution. The usual joy we feel in working together to help people in need was tempered with sadness at the loss of longtime volunteer Tim Tuerff, who died Dec. 15. Tim had been one of us from very near the start; he worked hard and cheerfully and kept us laughing with his quick wit and deadpan delivery. We all felt his absence at the Dec. 20 distribution but drew inspiration from his memory.
And so Family to Family continues, a true demonstration of how our community comes together to take care of its own. Thanks to you we were able to help many families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I hope that someday this program will no longer be needed. But so long as it is needed, with your help we’ll be there.
Contributions may be sent to Vineyard Committee on Hunger, with the words Family-to-Family in the check memo field, P.O. Box 4685, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.