More than thirty different Island non-profits will receive over $326,000 in grant funding from the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation, which held its annual awards ceremony Thursday evening at the Grange Hall.

The night marked a return to form for the foundation as its first in-person awards ceremony since 2019, but also a step in a new direction, as the organization introduced its recently-hired executive director, Paul Schulz.

Current executive director Emily Bramhall will be stepping down at the end of the year.

The leadership transition only served to raise spirits on Thursday, as accessibility became the magic word of the night, with organizations from Camp Jabberwocky to Mass Audobon devoting their funds to improving access to their services, whether that includes scholarships, disability-aware infrastructure, or language accommodation.

Outgoing executive director Emily Bramhall — Ray Ewing

Island Health Care was one of the evening’s biggest recipients, getting $22,611 to fund their new Produce Prescription Program, which provides individuals with funds to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as one-on-one nutritional counseling. Public health nurse Lila Fischer thanked the foundation for their support and emphasized how the program can go beyond just individual health.

“[This grant] allows us both to explore culinary medicine and build a community support system,” Ms. Fischer said.

Language accessibility in particular has been a priority for the past few years, Ms. Bramhall said, starting with the Communication Ambassador Partnership co-run by Sheryl Taylor and Leah Palmer. The program, which provides Portuguese language translation and interpretation services around the Island, was born out of Covid and the need to spread health information quickly and accessibly.

“We had seen accessibility via language as a crucial area that needed support,” Ms. Bramhall said. “Covid really brought that to the forefront, and we were really pleased to see other organizations take that on.”

Ms. Bramhall also cited housing insecurity as an evergreen issue on the Island. Harbor Homes was the night’s largest recipient at $25,000, the maximum grant given by the foundation. All of the funding is set to go to the organization’s emergency shelter, which is expanding its services from late October to the end of April.

“This more than reflects the need we’re seeing,” board member David Vigneault said of the change.

Leah Palmer heads the Community Ambassador Program — Ray Ewing

Other major grantees include the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, which received $20,469 to assist patients with medical expenses, as well as Health Imperatives, which received $15,000 to provide equitable access to sexual health services, and Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard, which also received $15,000 for their GoGoGrandparent senior ride assistance program.

Ms. Bramhall noted that the past year has given her the opportunity to examine how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the funding landscape. In particular, she said the foundation has started to reimagine the impact their grants could make, looking towards a more collaborative approach to funding.

“[It’s about] really knowing and trusting that these organizations know what’s best for them,” she said. “They’re the ones dealing with their communities in their way.”

Since its founding in 1982, the foundation has provided $7,282,000 in grant funding to over 210 Island nonprofits. Last year, they awarded $228,500 in grants to more than two dozen nonprofits, with a focus on moving forward after a year of emergency response due to Covid.

“We became proactive, not reactive,” Ms. Bramhall said. “That’s something we developed in the early days of Covid and will be a part of who we are going forward.”

Ms. Bramhall ended the night with a word of appreciation for the Island’s nonprofit community and for Mr. Schulz, who will be taking over after she spent the past six and a half years at the helm.

“I have big shoes to fill,” Mr. Schulz had said in his address to the audience.

“Well, I have no doubt he’ll fill them,” Ms. Bramhall responded.