In the summer months, the Vineyard offers up a wide diversity of “tastings.” There are wine tastings, cheese tastings, tasting menus, Taste of the Vineyard — even cucumber and lettuce tastings at Beetlebung farm.

So why not a water tasting?

Vineyard House will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Thursday, July 21, with the return of its annual Water Tasting by the Sea fundraiser, back after a two-year pandemic absence. Founded by volunteers in 1997, Vineyard House now provides clean and sober housing for up to 24 Islanders at a time in early recovery from substance use disorder. Its Vineyard Haven campus, built in 2014, accommodates 18 men and 6 women in separate houses.

The Water Tasting is one of organization’s longest running traditions, said executive director Kate Desrosiers. It started when the founders set out to host a fundraiser at which all members of the Island community could feel welcome.

“The wonderful part about it is that there is no alcohol served. It’s a total alcohol-free event,” Ms. Desrosiers said. “It’s a celebration of recovery as well as a fundraiser. Everybody can feel comfortable coming to it.”

Instead of beer and wine, guests at the Water Tasting swirl and sample water, still or sparkling. They can also sample oysters at the raw bar, enjoy hors d’oeuvres from Kitchen Porch catering, join in raffles and silent auctions and listen to music provided by Rose Guerin and Jeremy Berlin.

This year the tasting will be held in Waban Park in Oak Bluffs, overlooking Vineyard Sound, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Funds raised at the event help Vineyard House subsidize the cost of rent for residents, Ms. Desrosiers said.

“We subsidize 60 per cent of the residents’ rent through donations and the Water Tasting,” she said.

Donations helped Vineyard House subsidize 100 per cent of residents’ costs during the early stages of the pandemic, she added.

“What causes addiction so often is isolation, and it grows in isolation,” Ms. Desrosiers said. “And so it was difficult to have a campus isolated, but… we did really, really well.”

This year’s Water Tasting will feature as speakers two former residents of Vineyard House who now sit on the board of the organization. One of them is business owner Bill Howell, known to friends and colleagues as “Concrete Bill” because of his construction business, who was elected president of the Vineyard House board this past March. He told the Gazette that he’s looking forward to next Thursday’s fundraiser.

“We have such a great community on the Island for things like this. I feel really fortunate that this is where we’re at, and this is what we’re trying to do in this environment,” Mr. Howell said.

As president, he said he hopes to focus fundraising on “long-range planning and strategic development,” as well as programs that can consolidate and make accessible the Island’s many and diverse addiction relief resources.

Already Vineyard House offers more than structured, sober living. Its programs seek to prepare residents for life beyond campus. Mr. Howell said he looks specifically to hiring recent recoverees for his company.

“We try to develop more skills for the residents so they’re leaving in a better frame of mind and with a lot of support once they’re out in the community on their own,” Ms. Desrosiers said.

Tickets for the Water Tasting are $125 and are available online and at the door. Visit