It was a bustling scene at the parish house behind First Baptist Church on Friday afternoon as volunteers organized and packaged Thanksgiving meals for families in need. Serving Hands provides monthly food distribution and on holidays the Family to Family program joins in to add special holiday meals to the regular distribution.

The Thanksgiving meal is the biggest distribution of the year, and it all gets done in one day. The organizations serve families and individuals who qualify for federal assistance programs. Distributions begin at 2 p.m. and run for one hour.

“There will be 225 families which comes out to about 500 individuals,” said Betty Burton, director of Serving Hands, the Family to Family program and president of the Committee on Hunger.

Good deeds today, the Island Cup tomorrow for young football players. — Mark Alan Lovewell

In addition to produce and dry goods, each client receives a meal of potatoes, cranberry sauce, apples, oranges, squash, stuffing and other seasonal goods along with their choice of a turkey or chicken.

At the church, high school boys wearing varsity football and baseball letter jackets carried boxes bulging with juice, while volunteers filled green totes with fresh produce and canned goods. A group from Daybreak Clubhouse volunteers with Serving Hands every month and today was no exception.

“It’s wonderful we have a community like this, it’s amazing to me,” said Ms. Burton. She encouraged the crowd of volunteers to ask where the food and produce had come from. While a lot was shipped in from the Greater Boston Food Bank, a sizable amount of goods, especially the fresh produce, came from Island sources.

Ms. Burton goal is to have 70 per cent fresh produce. “Currently I’d say we’re at about 50 per cent,” she said.

Betty Burton — all roads related to keeping the Island's hungry fed lead to her. — Mark Alan Lovewell

This year Morning Glory and Whippoorwill farms donated 1,000 pounds of potatoes ranging from russet to blue. Twenty-one high school students bagged the potatoes this morning into five pound bags.

“These twenty-one kids, they saved our lives,” Ms. Burton said. “It’s wonderful if someone gives us one thousand pounds of potatoes, but...” She widened her eyes indicating the manpower involved in parceling out the spuds.

Ms. Burton said regional high school principal Margaret (Peg) Regan used to volunteer with Serving Hands before taking the interim position at the high school, and was the reason so many high school students were involved this year.

“She said, ‘these kids are going to get there, we’re going to get a bus and get them there,’” said Ms. Burton.

Family to Family benefits from the support of several Island institutions. Through Community Groceries organized by Jessica Roddy customers at Cronig’s can purchase organic goods such as spinach and milk which are donated to Serving Hands. Jim’s Package store provides delivery service for clients who are housebound. And Island Grown Gleaners regularly visits Island farms collecting any surplus produce from the fields. On Wednesday they were busy bundling shoots of kale.

As the morning continued and distribution time neared, Ms. Burton disappeared into the crowd of volunteers, delegating responsibilities and thanking each participant.

Tax-deductible donations to Family to Family can be made through the Vineyard Committee on Hunger at P.O. Box 4685, Vineyard Haven 02568.