With an Islandwide shutdown beginning to weigh on the Vineyard’s most vulnerable residents, volunteers are needed to make sure hungry people are fed and seniors are kept safe during the coronavirus emergency. Island Grown Initiative executive director Rebecca Haag said Thursday that a broad-scale coordination effort is under way among a network of community groups to make food and prepared meals available for Islanders who need it, including elderly people, children and families.

Island Grown Initiative executive director Rebecca Haag led the meeting. — Jeanna Shepard

Volunteer help is urgently needed and will be coordinated through an Islandwide clearinghouse set up by Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. Called Care for the Community, the program matches nonprofit organizations in need of help with volunteers who enter their interests and skills into an online database.

“We can assure people for right now there is adequate food,” Ms. Haag said. “My concern is less right now than what it’s going to be three or four weeks from now. We are going to need an influx of new volunteers.”

Meanwhile, the Permanent Endowment Fund of Martha’s Vineyard has created an emergency response fund to help Island nonprofits who need extra funds to address urgent community needs. Grants will be awarded on a rolling, fast-respoonse basis to qualified tax-exempt organizations, executive director Emily Bramhall said.

Seeded with $25,000 from existing sources, the endowment is seeking donations from people who want to contribute. More information is available on the Permanent Endowment’s website.

“We want this fund to deliver relief and hope to the many nonprofits that work on the front lines assisting our most vulnerable neighbors,” Anne Williamson, chairman of the board of directors, said in a news release. “We feel an obligation to do all we can to support our fragile safety net.”

With schools, day care centers and senior centers alike all closed to the public and community suppers canceled, new food distribution activities are quickly replacing sit-down meals. Meal distribution for families began Wednesday at the high school, and most elementary schools have instituted grab-and-go meal pickup programs.

The Island Food Pantry, which served 1,200 people in February alone, has also revamped its pickup system to ensure safe and healthy access for people using its services, director Kayte Morris said Thursday.

Patrons are given pre-packed bags of groceries, and only six people are allowed into the pantry at a time, down from 12 people just a few days earlier.

Health Aging MV president Paddy Moore. — Jeanna Shepard

“We’re really focusing on social distancing,” she said.

Ms. Morris said there are two main ways that people can help the food pantry, by offering to volunteer and to contribute money at islandfoodpantry.org/donate.

“We need cash more than we need food donations right now. A one-dollar donation to the Island Food Pantry will allow us to purchase seven dollars worth of food,” she said.

In addition to the need for food, seniors who are at increased risk with the coronavirus face other challenges, said Paddy Moore, chairman of the Healthy Aging Task Force.

Healthy Aging is trying to set up a group that will help elderly Islanders at risk of social isolation by calling them at home, but there’s a snag: while towns keep lists of residents by age and address, they don’t have phone numbers.

“A lot of elders don’t use Facebook. Many don’t use email either. That makes it hard in this kind of situation,” she said.

She said people over 60 who are staying home because of the coronavirus should call Elder Services of Cape Cod and the Islands at 800-244-4630 or 508-394-4630

to see if they meet the income and need-based qualifications for services.

While Martha’s Vineyard Community Services has closed much of its operation including its early childhood education program, Family Center and Chicken Alley Thrift Shop, the staff is available by phone and email, communications director Mary Korba said.

Emergency services, enhanced urgent care and domestic and sexual violence hotlines are still available. People experiencing a mental health or substance use emergency should call 508-693-7900, ext. 241 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. or 508-693-0032 after 6 p.m. Anyone experiencing a domestic or sexual violence emergency should call 508-696-7233 (SAFE).

Existing clients at Island Counseling Center and CONNECT to End Violence are asked to call their clinicians directly regarding new protocols.

“We are working hard to make sure these essential services remain available,” Ms. Korba said.

“We ask anyone seeking services to please call first so that we can best direct them. There is a skeleton crew on campus for emergencies but we don’t want anyone to show up without being directed by a clinician.”

Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard is continuing to provide hospice nursing and bereavement services, though its office is not open to visitors, said executive director Tom Hallahan. Hospice can be reached by calling 508-693-0189, or online at hospiceofmv.org.

Most self-help group meetings on the Island, including Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, have been suspended, but online meetings have sprung up to replace many of these. The Martha’s Vineyard AA Intergroup is covering the cost of registering for Zoom and encouraging group meetingsto transition to online. Online AA meetings are listed here and NA meetings areat virtual-na.org.

The Vineyard’s Brazilian community is banding together to get through the emergency, said Meiroka Nunes, administrator of Brazukada, a Facebook group for Brazilians living on Martha’s Vineyard.

She is in daily contact with Island authorities, including the hospital, and works with social service agencies such as the Island Food Bank and provides information in Portuguese.

“Everybody tries to help everybody, it’s amazing. We are together, all on the same boat,” she said.

Ms. Haag said many current volunteers are older, and younger people are urgently needed to supplement their ranks. But volunteering doesn’t have to mean joining an organization, she added.

“It starts first as a neighbor-to-neighbor activity. If you want to help, know who your neighbors are, do a telephone tree,” she said. “If you’re going to Cronig’s, ask them if they need anything. If you can make an extra meal for an elderly person you know, you can drop it off on a porch without making contact,” she said.

“For people who really want to help, that’s a great way to do it without exposing yourself, by being mindful who who’s in your neighborhood. That’s real social service.”