Kathi Hackett wakes up most weekday mornings at 5:15 a.m., giving herself enough time to make the 7 a.m. ferry to the Vineyard. She lives in East Falmouth with her husband Tony and has taken this ferry ride for more than 25 years, long enough to bond with a community of commuters. She works at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services in the Family Support Center, helping families as they face challenges in navigating services and resources for their family member with a disability. She also serves families on Nantucket.

Ms. Hackett is committed to serving families where they live.

“I care deeply about the families that live here,” Ms. Hackett said. “It’s important that they receive services in their own community.”

In her small office, cluttered with the remnants of decades of work, she sees mothers and fathers who are in the midst of decisions and problems that can seem unsolvable. Ms. Hackett approaches these obstacles with them one hurdle at a time.

Sometimes she meets a single mom with a newly diagnosed baby at the ferry and drives them up to Boston Children’s Hospital for an evaluation. Sometimes she sits with a father and his 19-year-old child with a disability while they go through the intake process with the Department of Developmental Services in Carver. “Sometimes I can be an extra set of ears and a voice when the parents are overwhelmed,” she explained.

Ms. Hackett has been at the job long enough to have photos of a smiling five-year-old boy who has grown into a handsome 30-year-old man taped to her office wall. “I still remember them all at five years old, though,” she said with a laugh.

She came to Community Services in the fall of 1988 after working for the Framingham schools and at the New England Home for Little Wanderers. Ms. Hackett began organizing with other professionals in the field after working with Island families for a few years.

“Families really wanted flexible services, not just respite care,” she explained. “They wanted to be consulted with, not just told what to do.”

Ms. Hackett and a group of key organizers worked to establish Massachusetts Families Organizing For Change in the early 1990s. The group advocates for family support services, even introducing legislation passed in 2002. The Individual and Family Support Law, Chapter 171, calls for the seven state disability agencies to write annual plans regarding their family support services. MFOFC also hosts an annual family leadership series which offers workshops, speakers and advocacy opportunities at the state capitol. It gives parents and guardians a chance to share stories and offer personal insights on what works and doesn’t work with their children. Ms. Hackett is on the board of directors of MFOFC and serves in a similar capacity with other service organizations.

“One of the great things about community services is that over the years I have been supported to be involved in programs that I feel will benefit Island families,” Ms. Hackett said. “Family support is one of those things that looks different for each family. I can provide information, referrals, resources and I also provide opportunities for families to socialize and network with each other.”

That early morning ferry ride gives her time to organize her day, she said, and the ride home offers a chance to decompress.

“I just can’t not do this work,” she said. “It’s a calling and I don’t really know where it comes from. I get so nourished by this work. I think it’s something I was born to do.”

Lately she’s been turning some of her passion to the soccer field. Her daughter Victoria plays at Springfield College and she and Tony travel to watch the games. She’s been known to cheer with the loudest of fans during the World Cup.

“I never played soccer but I just love it,” she said. “Tony likes to watch it too, but in a different way. He’s quiet about it, unless the other team scores, then it isn’t pretty.”

They are willing to travel all over the Northeast to watch soccer games, especially women’s soccer, she said.

Her willingness to travel serves her well in her work, too. She never gets tired of the ferry ride to the Vineyard, Ms. Hackett said.

“I love being on the water. The ocean always looks different to me. The commute can make the week seem long, but I’d much rather make this commute than drive up the freeway going into Boston every day.”