This will be my last column. After 11 years of writing the East Chop column, I am running out of people to profile and things to say.

I have loved this endeavor because of the many interesting and creative people that live in our community. Reporting on the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair has been inspiring. Every year our artists and creative craftspeople come home with multiple prizes.

From the many profiles I have written over the last 11 years, I have learned how the brain works, how therapy functions in the psychological healing process, how to fly an airplane, how the ancient practice of yoga has become an important exercise regime, and so much more. I have also been inspired by the many members of our community who have chosen work, at least in part, because they have wanted to make a difference. Michaele Christian, a longtime research scientist at NIH, put it most succinctly: “I chose this career path because I had a passion to be part of the cancer solution.”

I also received a great deal of wisdom from conducting these interviews. Linda Collette, a paramedic, ran the Brimfield Ambulance Service for 30 years. When I asked her what she had learned over the course of her career, here is what she said. “One big lesson: Life is precious and very fragile. One moment a person is here, and then they are gone. You can’t take life for granted. I don’t go to sleep mad. If I have something important to do, I do it now.”

In preparing to write this final column, I reread all the columns I had written over the last 11 years. In doing that it jumped out at me that there was hardly a one where I didn’t spend time thanking volunteers. Our clubs are run primarily by volunteers. The East Chop Association is all volunteer. Our community is kept clean by volunteers who pick up trash. Full-time residents serve as members of the board of selectmen and on many committees within the local government.

Featherstone, Union Chapel, Friends of Sengekontacket, and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum are just some of the Island nonprofits that would be greatly diminished without East Choppers as volunteers. Kate Hancock and Jim Richardson recently received the prestigious Martha’s Vineyard Medal, an award given by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum for leaders who make an outstanding contribution to Island history, arts, and culture. These two members of our community are emblematic of the important contribution our people make.

In one of my favorite interviews, I spoke with John and Bells Potter about their work with an organization that helps people with addiction problems. Toward the end of our discussion, Bells hit the nail on the head when he spoke about why volunteer. “Don’t think of us as heroes, Rick. We certainly don’t. We do this work because it helps us. When you help in this way, you get so much back in return. We both feel grateful for being part of the solution.”

I end with this quote from Bells because it expresses so well what I have gained from writing this column. As I indicate above, I have learned interesting things, and have been inspired by the many people I have interviewed. Most importantly, I have learned an important component of what makes for a healthy community. It is a place where people willingly volunteer and enjoy working with their neighbors to improve conditions for all of its residents. Thank you so much for sharing your stories with me and for your generous praise of my work. It has been an exciting chapter in my life.