The season of giving, or rather of helping others, roared in on two wheels a few weeks ago when the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders, which also included off-Island Samaritans, circled the Vineyard in a rugged display of kindness while gathering toys and donations for the Red Stocking Fund.

Red Stocking collects and distributes toys to Vineyard children in need and has done so since 1938. You would be hard put to find a longer history of evoking the spirit of the holidays, of looking in the mirror at your own good fortune and extending it to others.

For a more recent display look no further than the bewhiskered jowls of Vineyard policemen, with the boys in blue from several towns defying protocol and growing beards and mustaches and then shaving them off for charity.

But of course giving back is not only a seasonal urge here on the Island. Consider the Island Food Pantry and Serving Hands which provide food for the hungry year-round, as does Island Grown Initiative, in particular their lunch program, which helps feed kids during the summer and vacation weeks when subsidized school lunches are on break.

And yet the holiday season does open hearts a bit wider it seems, which is especially important as cold weather and loss of summer incomes loom. There is no better example of this than the houses of worship and their community suppers, which ensure that every day of the week a person can get a free meal in the company of others. The Chilmark Community Church has already started serving pizza on Tuesday evenings and in the new year the other congregations will follow suit with their meals, powered by a village of volunteers.

But the congregations did not stop there. They are on the front lines of hardship, witnessing the daily struggles of countless community members, specifically around food and shelter. With food covered, at least in part, they turned to housing. Four years ago they began Houses of Grace shelters, where from Jan. 1 to March 31 the homeless or nearly so can find a bed every night of the week, from 6:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., again powered by volunteers. For those wishing to help out there will be one more volunteer orientation on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at Good Shepherd Parish in Oak Bluffs.

Then the houses of worship leaned in some more, looking for a way to help in the daytime hours during the coldest months of a New England winter, before the nighttime shelters open. The answer was a warming shelter at the Good Shepherd Parish, already open this year from Mondays to Saturdays, thankfully so as the cold weather roared in during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The congregations, along with the Social Justice Club at the regional high school, have also organized a weekend retreat in Boston later in December, pairing up with CityReach where students spend a night helping and interacting with the city’s homeless, passing out food and warm clothing, sleeping on the floor of a church, and getting to know their less fortunate brothers and sisters. The weekend helps reveal to this next generation how homelessness is everywhere, in cities and suburbs and enchanted summer vacation destinations, while often remaining out of sight.

Which brings up the question, why is it that the houses of worship and volunteers are bearing the brunt of this work? The county is an essential part of the mix, employing a homeless prevention director and providing funds, but where are the towns and the town discussions? Lack of affordable housing is on agendas but this is often for the lower/middle income brackets. But what of those whose incomes are too low or non-existent to qualify for these programs? Where do they fit in at town talks and meetings?

Recently, a new program called Harbor Homes has approached the various community preservation committees for funds to help create group housing for those who have none, not as a permanent solution but as a way to stabilize individuals in order to begin the next step to more permanent housing. It is hoped that the towns will look upon this proposal favorably, and also use it as a way to keep the conversation going about how to not just thank everyone who has stepped forward with their time and energy, but to look for lasting solutions.

Because no one should go hungry or homeless during the holidays, or at anytime. Not here or anywhere.