Vineyard House hosted its 21st annual Water Tasting By The Sea on Thursday evening at Oyster Pond in Edgartown. While the event has taken place at a collection of different Island locations, this year’s was quite literally, by the sea.

Island philanthropist Dick Friedman donated his waterfront property for the event. Hundreds of community members gathered under the tent, enjoying hor d’oeuvres from Kitchen Porch, listening to the personal anecdotes from those impacted by Vineyard House’s work, and taking their pick of seven water varieties.

Founded in 1997, Vineyard House serves as safe place for Islanders in the earliest stages of sobriety. The campus, nestled on Short Hill Road in Vineyard Haven, is a residential community that serves 18 men and seven women. While Vineyard House does charge its occupants a subsidized rent, the residence relies on events like the Water Tasting for 35 per cent of its operating budget.

Executive director Kate Desrosiers told the crowd that the road to recovery requires a day by day, sometimes minute by minute commitment. — Jeanna Shepard

Upon arriving, guests were greeted with a mason jar.

“We’ve been sponsoring the event since 2014 and each year the glass has a different logo,” said Rockland Trust Vice President Tilma Johnson. She was joined by branch manager Veronica Fullin in passing out the glasses, each adorned with the event name in turquoise script. “Some individuals even have a little collection going,” Ms. Fullin added.

Glasses in hand, attendees filled and refilled with a selection of sparkling and still waters.

“The most popular has to be the Pellegrino,” said an event volunteer as he topped off a glass. “But we’ve really got it all. And it’s all gluten-free.”

Volunteer Bill Rankin concurred on the popularity of Pellegrino, but said he couldn’t discount the flavored waters.

Katie, an alumna, said Vineyard House had been a saving grace for her. — Jeanna Shepard

“The blueberry tangerine Polar seltzer is amazing,” he said. “Polar has a selection of limited edition flavors that are only around for the summer.”

Between sips of seltzer, guests bid on silent auction and raffle items from Island artists, restaurants and retailers. Artist Fae Kontje-Gibbs donated two of her monotypes in addition to volunteering during the event. She voiced her appreciation for Vineyard House and its staff members.

“Alcoholism touches every single life. I’ve seen the suffering that it causes,” Ms. Kontje-Gibbs said. “There is a real need for a safe place for people needing to get sober.

Development committee chairman Lucy Cox proposed a new idea for this year’s tasting to encourage guests to donate. Items such as dishwashing liquid, toilet paper and coffee lined tables at the far end of the tent, each with a price tag indicating how much it costs Vineyard House per month to supply it. Guests could then select an item (or multiple) to sponsor.

“I’m one of those people that when I give money I want to know exactly where it’s going,” Ms. Cox said, gesturing towards the display. “This accomplishes that.”

Board member Karen Rankin agreed. “It’s fun, different and interactive,” she said. “And people have been extremely positive about it.”

To learn more or to donate, visit — Jeanna Shepard

Two Vineyard House alumni spoke towards the end evening. Patrick, who will celebrate his three-year sobriety anniversary on August 20, talked candidly about his difficulties with drugs and alcohol and his subsequent journey to get clean.

“I can’t say enough great things about Vineyard House,” Patrick said. “There are things that I have in my life today that I would have never expected and it’s thanks to them.” He lived at the house for two years before moving off-Island to Charleston, S.C.

Alumna Katie followed Patrick’s remarks.

“I’ve been sober since Sept. 9, 2011,” Katie said to roaring applause. “Vineyard House was a saving grace for me, and it taught me how to have compassion for other people. I stayed for one year and really didn’t want to leave.”

Executive director Kate Desrosiers concluded with her own sentiments and gratitude for Katie and Patrick’s courage to share their stories.

“Recovery for residents is every day, sometimes every hour, sometimes every minute,” she said. “I would say without a doubt I have the best job on the Island because I get to work every day with people like Patrick and Katie.”

To learn more about Vineyard House visit