Jo Ann Murphy, Mary Beth Grady, Allison Burger and Betty Burton have little in common unless you count determination, passion, compassion, selflessness, creativity, humility, entrepreneurship, generosity, optimism and admiration for each other.

Jo-Ann Murphy, county veterans agent and a lifetime of community involvement. — Steve Myrick

The four Island women were honored as women of the year during a champagne brunch Sunday at the Harbor View Hotel. The annual event was organized by Women Empowered, a support group in its 15th year helping local women gain control of their lives.

Jessica Kensky, married just seven months to her husband Patrick Downs when both were cut down in the blast of a bomb at the Boston Marathon in April 2013, delivered a moving keynote address following the awards. She acknowledged the Island women who were honored and the organization that helps women overcome difficult circumstances to get back on their feet.

“These women have also been hit hard, they just aren’t on the evening news,” Ms. Kensky said. “That’s what makes the work you are doing all the more admirable. You all have chosen to help your neighbors. Their struggles may be more anonymous, or less obvious, and yet here you are acknowledging and addressing their needs in a creative, compassionate and generous way. Please continue the great work that you do.”

Mary Beth Grady, also speaking for her partner Allison Burger, asked co-workers at Chilmark Chocolates to stand and share the honor. — Steve Myrick

Jo Ann Murphy was honored for her work as Dukes County veterans agent and for a lifetime of community involvement. A scout leader and commander of the American Legion post in Vineyard Haven, Ms. Murphy is the first person Island veterans turn to when they need help untangling bureaucracy, securing benefits and organizing community events.

“When I joined the Army, there weren’t a lot of women,” Ms. Murphy told the assembled crowd. “When I became a veterans service agent, there were only four of us. Now one third of us are women. We are empowered, and we’re here to stay.”

Betty Burton, adult program director at Vineyard Haven Library who makes sure no Islander goes without Thanksgiving dinner. — Steve Myrick

Mary Beth Grady and Allison Burger met while volunteering as counselors at Camp Jabberwocky more than 30 years ago. First as employees, and eventually as owners, they helped build Chilmark Chocolates into a Martha’s Vineyard icon. Along the way, they have employed dozens of people with disabilities in an atmosphere where there are no supervisors, and everyone does what they can to get the job done.

Ms. Grady spoke for her business partner, who was busy running the shop in Chilmark. The first thing she did when accepting the award was ask the many current and former co-workers attending the brunch to stand and share the honor. She read from the original mission statement she and Ms. Burger created, which still hangs on the wall at Chilmark Chocolates.

“We feel it is important that people have a chance to reach their potential,” Ms. Grady said. “People with disabilities work side by side with others, and team members, each person doing what he or she is able. Work reminds us of our value.”

“These women have also been hit hard, they just aren’t on the evening news,” — Steve Myrick

Betty Burton, is trained as a research scientist. She left her job to care for her son, who was born with toxoplasmosis, an infection that can lead to severe disabilities in young children. After moving to Martha’s Vineyard, she donated countless hours of volunteer time to Meals on Wheels and the Martha’s Vineyard Committee on Hunger.

She is now the adult programming director for the Vineyard Haven Library. She founded Serving Hands, which distributes food to Island families in need, and Family to Family, based on the tradition of helping neighbors during the holidays.

“I couldn’t bear to think of people on my Island sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey,” she said. In the first year of Family to Family, she secured a donation of 20 turkeys, but 40 people showed up on distribution day. She promised to get turkeys for everyone, and she did. Now the program distributes six tons of fresh food for holiday dinners.

“Last year, we served 225 families. It has become a real community event,” she said.

Women empowered supports dozens of local women each year by helping them develop money management skills, resolve debt and get jobs. The nonprofit organization sponsors one-on-one coaching, public workshops, tuition assistance, and micro-loans.