Red Stocking Fund stalwart Kerry Alley has always shunned the spotlight, working tirelessly but quietly behind the scenes to ensure that needy Island children have gifts and food at Christmastime.

Mr. Alley led Red Stocking Fund for decades. Now a new special purpose fund named in his honor has raised $100,000. — Jeanna Shepard

On Wednesday afternoon, an unsuspecting Mr. Alley found himself the center of attention as some 50 Islanders, friends and family members gathered on Zoom to celebrate his decades of service — and to surprise him with the news that over the past few weeks, a $40,000 Red Stocking deficit has turned into a six-figure fund named in his honor.

“Today we passed the $100,000 threshold,” Ron Rappaport told the virtual crowd, which included Mr. Alley, his wife Pat and more than half a dozen friends who had dropped by the couple’s Oak Bluffs porch, ostensibly for a glass of wine.

The wine soon gave way to French champagne and heartfelt toasts honoring Mr. Alley, whose efforts to fund this year’s Red Stocking gifts sparked the secret endowment campaign.

Started in 1938, the Red Stocking Fund relies entirely on donations and volunteers to assemble, wrap and distribute holiday gifts to Island children in need. Each year, some 300 children whose parents have applied anonymously quietly receive gifts of clothing, toys and food.

With the fund’s three annual fund-raisers — the Vineyard Harley Riders’ drive, the Big Chili Contest and the Great Chowder Contest — canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Red Stocking was $40,000 shy of its needs for Christmas 2020.

“About a month ago . . . Kerry called and asked me to help raise money to cover the shortfall,” Mr. Rappaport told the group on Zoom. “I got some of the other people on the call involved (and said) let’s go for $100,000.”

Among Mr. Rappaport’s chief collaborators in the six-figure drive, he said, were his brother Alan, Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard executive director Emily Bramhall and Martha’s Vineyard Bank president James Anthony, all of whom were on the Zoom call Wednesday.

“It’s been a dream effort creating this fund . . . You are the ultimate nameless, selfless civic volunteer,” he said.

“I love this idea that Ron had about creating this fund in honor of Kerry, because he truly is the embodiment of Red Stocking,” Ms. Bramhall said.

“He said he wanted to honor Kerry, so Jill and I were all in,” Alan Rappaport said, before checking to make sure that Mr. Alley was still on the call.

“He is the only person I know who might actually get miffed at the notion of being honored,” Mr. Rappaport added, before addressing Mr. Alley directly.

“This is a way to say thank you,” he said. “The Red Stocking fund is . . . selfless and voluntary. It’s a perfect organization and a perfect honoree.”

Impromptu celebration followed on the porch of the Alley home in Oak Bluffs. — Jeanna Shepard

Red Stocking Fund co-chairmen Susie Wallo and Sandy Joyce both fought tears as they spoke through their computers.

“It’s just been a whirlwind of community generosity for this little tiny organization,” Ms. Joyce said.

“I’ve been crying this whole time,” Ms. Wallo confessed, who later joined the Alleys on their porch for an impromptu celebration.

Family members also joined the videoconference, including Alley Furlong, one of the Alleys’ six grandchildren.

“We love you and we thank you for instilling in us a sense of giving, and more important a sense of community and the importance of community,” Ms. Furlong told her grandfather.

Appearing stunned through much of the call, Mr. Alley found his voice near the end to thank the organizers of the fund drive and celebration.

As always, he aimed the spotlight away from himself. Addressing Ron Rappaport, Mr. Alley said: “You are a mover and a shaker.”

Speaking to the Gazette after the event, Mr. Rappaport said the new fund will cover the shortfall from Covid-canceled events both this year and, if necessary, in 2021.

“They need $85,000 a year,” Mr. Rappaport said of the Red Stocking Fund, which served about 350 Island families in 2019.

“Their demand is going to be up this year,” he said. He added:

“The wonderful thing is we get to help families in need and at the same time honor Kerry Alley — a person who has high standards of what he expects from others, but never asks for anything.”

Speaking to the Gazette by phone Thursday morning, Ms. Joyce echoed the sentiment.

“To be able to set up this endowment in his honor is probably one of our greatest honors,” she said.

As for the season ahead, Ms. Joyce said with so much uncertainty around the pandemic, there is no way to know what it will be like.

“We wish we had a crystal ball but we don’t,” she said. “We anticipate that we might have more first-time applicants this year because of the pandemic. We anticipate that families will need our help who have not needed it in the past.”

The Red Stocking Fund’s first website will launch in a few days, Ms. Joyce told the group over Zoom Wednesday. The new website address is

Donations to the fund can be mailed to The Red Stocking Fund, P.O. Box 600, Edgartown, MA 02539.