It is 4:30 on a Friday afternoon in August, and Sandy Pratt has her arms in an enormous aluminum bowl of lobster meat in the kitchen of Grace Church in Vineyard Haven, right up to her rubber-gloved wrists. She’s doing her part in the lobster roll economy on Martha’s Vineyard, fund raising operations that generate, by conservative estimate, more than $430,000 annually in gross revenue for nonprofit organizations.

At $20 a pop for an enormous lobster roll, a bag of chips and a drink, it adds up fast. Subtract the cost of wholesale lobster meat, ignore the labor cost of dedicated volunteers, and you have a tidy sum left over for good deeds.

Grace Church volunteer Bo Picard has lobster on the brain. — Jeanna Shepard

But lobsters don’t grow on trees, and neither does the money they generate on the Island. This is a lot harder than selling raffle tickets.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work,” Ms. Pratt said. “It’s not an easy fundraiser. Especially in the numbers we’re doing it in. What amazes me is we’re doing it in those numbers, out of a very small kitchen, with all volunteers. It’s quite the operation. There are maybe 10 to 12 people that show up every Friday. They are the cornerstone. We bring other people in as we can and as we need them.”

Grace Church is the gold standard for lobster roll fund raising operations. On some nights, especially the night of the Oak Bluffs fireworks, more than 1,300 lobster rolls go out the door. On just an average night, sales are around 1,000 rolls.

“It’s always busy on fireworks night,” said Ms. Pratt, who manages the Chicken Alley thrift Shop when she is not slinging lobster rolls. “We get large orders, orders of 20 and 30.”

Ms. Pratt has been helping out for the past 30 years, but the tradition goes back even further.

“I’ve been coming for the lobster rolls since 1972,” said Father Darryl James, an Episcopal priest from New York city. “They’re blessed, and they’re the best bang for the buck in town.”

Vern Oliver is a regular. — Mark Lovewell

Sheryl Harrington, visiting from California, took a cab over from Oak Bluffs. She heard about the Friday evening lobster feast by word of mouth.

“We had done everything in Oak Bluffs,” Ms. Harrington said. “On our last day, we thought we would try this. I live in Los Angeles. I don’t eat any lobster there.”

Susan Eibner is the interim priest at Grace Church. She had been on the Island only a short time when the church kicked off the season. She said she thought she had an idea how it all worked, but then, she said, she really didn’t.

“I had no clue what was going to happen that first Friday,” Reverend Eibner said. “I was astounded. It was not a fundraiser for me, it became a ministry. The whole evening is this amazing time for a community to interact at our church, and have fun. Most churches do this once a year, and they think they’re just amazing. This church does it every Friday night. That’s the astounding thing.”

Proceeds from lobster roll sales fund operating expenses and programs for the church. In the near future, however, the church hopes to reach beyond its walls.

“It makes a lot of things possible,” Reverend Eibner said. “They want to get to the place where they’re not using it necessarily just for the ministries of the church, but also for some project that they begin here on the Island that will actually help the Island. That’s the goal. This is a very determined group of people.”

Grace Church lobster rolls equal big smiles for Kathy Shields, Liz Thompson, and Deborah Hipkins. — Jeanna Shepard

Edgartown police got into the act this summer, staging two events, one in July, and then another in August. Sponsored by the Edgartown Patrolman’s Association, the officers threw in a little gimmick: drive-up lobster rolls.

“The twist on ours was drive-up, get served by a cop,” said Sgt. Thomas Smith. “The interaction with the public is a good thing, for them to see us in a different light.”

Sgt. Joel DeRoche said the officers tried to think a little differently for their event, which was staged at the Edgartown School.

“We had some lobster swag, some blow-up lobsters, some lobster necklaces and lobster hats. The evening we did it in July went really well. We sold 327 rolls. However, the August date we didn’t do nearly as well. The weather was really poor.”

Proceeds from the lobster roll sales will be put toward scholarships the patrolman’s association offer to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School students.

“We offer two scholarships each year, each in the amount of $3,000,” Sergeant DeRoche said. “Our goal was to pay for each of them.”

The Patrolman’s Association plans to repeat the drive-up lobster rolls next year.

Volunteers Janet and Peter Hefler at the American Legion Hall. — Mark Lovewell

Over at American Legion post 257 in Vineyard Haven, the lobster economy is on a slightly smaller scale, but just as important to the organization. The Legion kicks off its season at the Tisbury Street Fair in July, and continues every Tuesday night through August.

“At the street fair we sold about 440 lobster rolls in 2 1/2 hours,” said Nancy Nevin who is a teacher at the Tisbury School. “They watch how much lobster goes into these rolls, and it’s heaping. We have to give them a fork. It’s huge.”

Size seems to matter more than any nuance in seasonings or taste to lobster roll aficionados. It is what made Vern (Bud) Oliver a regular at the Legion on summer Tuesday nights.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Every week. They’re the biggest on the Island, I think. Best kept secret on Martha’s Vineyard.”

Like Grace Church, the Legion buys its lobster from a food distributor that delivers to the Island. It has to be thawed, mixed with mayonnaise, and packaged into plastic containers ready for assembling into lobster rolls.

“It comes from Maine,” Ms. Nevin said. “It’s a great brand, everybody seems to love it. We have to break it up because it comes in huge chunks. They’re big lobsters.”

Proceeds help the Legion post keep its services reasonably priced, by making sure the utility bills get paid.

“The heating bill here in the winter is phenomenal,” Ms. Nevin said. “The hall is used a lot with different functions. In order for people to rent it out for different things, we don’t have to charge a lot of money if we have enough money to pay those bills.”

Like any successful fund raising operation, hard work is a key ingredient, but making lobster rolls also seems to require equal measures of good will and camaraderie.

“It has been a great opportunity to meet people, the summer people coming here, getting to know where they’re from, and we get to tell them about our Island,” Ms. Nevin said.

“This is a lot of work, but it’s fun,” she added. “We’ve had a great summer. We’ve gotten very close to each other. We’re kind of disappointed that it’s going to end.”