Vineyard House celebrated its 25th annual Water Tasting by the Sea on Thursday evening at Waban Park in Oak Bluffs. The fundraiser, replete with a raw bar, paella, a raffle and the signature tasting of waters, both still and sparkling, supports Islanders struggling with substance abuse disorder.

Bill Howell, president of the organization’s board and a former resident of the Vineyard House, the Island’s only sober living community, was a featured speaker.

The owner of a local construction business, Mr. Howell stressed the importance of the immersive treatment the organization provides, citing his own experience with the program as evidence of its effectiveness. He specifically thanked Kate Desrosiers, the executive director of Vineyard House, as well as the larger Island community for their continued stewardship of the organization.

“This event tonight gives me a lot of hope,” Mr. Howell said after his speech. “To see this level of support from the community is amazing. Addiction isn’t always the bright and flashy cause to support. It means a lot to see everyone out here.”

Founded in 1997, Vineyard House provides structured, sober housing for 24 residents of the Island who are struggling with substance abuse. In the decades since it was founded, the organization has assisted more than 350 men and women in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.

The organization credits fundraisers like the Water Tasting for subsidizing the program, allowing participation for many Islanders who can’t afford the high cost of off-Island rehabilitation facilities.

Linda Jackson, a lawyer from Edgartown, has volunteered at the Water Tasting since its inception.

“I became involved with Vineyard House because of my own experience and observations about what the Island needed to serve those dealing with substance abuse,” Ms. Jackson said.

According to the Department of Public Health, Dukes County consistently reports one of the highest rates of substance use disorder per capita in the state. In 2020, a survey recorded by the public health nonprofit Public Good Projects showed that most Vineyarders believe addiction is a serious problem on the Island.

It was evident that the challenges of substance abuse had touched many of the community members attending and volunteering at the event. Ava Maggi, a volunteer, was inspired to help out with the Water Tasting after growing up amidst the Island community’s struggles with the disease.

“I have a lot of people who have benefited from all the help substance abusers get on the Island,” said Ms. Maggi, a college student from Oak Bluffs. “I’ve known most of the people here my whole life. I just want to give back after all the help they have gotten from [Vineyard House].”

The party stretched late into the evening, with baked goods and fresh fruit provided for dessert. Edgartown residents Kristin and Tim Brown mingled with the crowd as the festivities wound down.

“This is a staple event of the summer. I’m really happy it’s been going on so long,” Ms. Brown said, adding that while she had been hearing about the fundraiser for years, it was her first time attending.

“All we’ve got is each other on this Island, and that’s why this event is so important,” her husband added.