Nonprofit leaders and volunteers from across Martha’s Vineyard gathered at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury Wednesday night as the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation handed out more than $400,000 in grants.

Vineyard Independence Partnership is among the grantees.

“Our mission statement is to enhance and preserve the quality of life on this Island, and . . . you all have enabled us to fulfill our mission,” foundation chair Alec Walsh told the crowd.

“Whether it’s the arts, keeping our ponds clean, maintaining the maritime tradition of the Island, looking after our elderly, our young — I’m in awe of what you do,” Mr. Walsh said.

Foundation executive director Paul Schulz said the organization received 59 grant applications — an increase of more than 50 per cent over previous years — and was able to fund 38.

That’s one out of every eight nonprofits on the Island, Mr. Schulz said.

Wednesday’s fast-paced ceremony gave each grant recipient a chance to briefly describe their organization, its programming and what their grant will fund.

Island Autism will be able to provide its services free of charge to nine autistic Vineyarders next year, said the group’s founder, Kate DeVane.

“All of these people and their families work very hard to stay on Martha’s Vineyard,” Ms. DeVane told the audience.

Community foundation grants also will pay for monthly visits to seniors by Tony Smalls, the popular miniature horse from Misty Meadows Equine Therapy Center in West Tisbury, among other Misty Meadows initiatives.

“We partner with 36 Island nonprofits in different ways [and] estimate that we impacted 7,000 people in some way last year,” said Misty Meadows program director Liz Adams.

While most of the grant applications are decided on by the community foundation board, there are also donors who choose their own recipients. A grant to Island Grown Initiative from the Weisman family, in memory of Wendy Weisman Jenkinson, will support expanded cooking classes for schoolchildren.

Another memorial grant will honor Emma MacKay Hall, who was killed in an automobile collision three years ago, by providing grief counseling for children and teens at Hospice and Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard.

Alexandra Bullen Coutts spoke at Wednesday's awards ceremony. — Zivah Solomon

“Thank you for entrusting us with your children,” hospice counselor Jill De La Hunt said, as director Cathy Wozniak accepted the foundation’s check for special training in youth bereavement counseling.

Other Island health care organizations receiving funds for direct services included the Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group, Health Imperatives and the Vineyard Health Care Access Program.

Grants to a dozen different educational groups, from the Garden Gate Child Development Center, Felix Neck summer camp and Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club to ACE MV, will benefit Islanders of all ages from preschool to adulthood.

Food security grants went to the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury’s community meals program and the Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen’s Preservation Trust for its seafood donation program, which buys and freezes local catches for free distribution through Island food services. The program gives fishermen a fair price and reduces waste, fishermen’s preservation trust executive director Shelly Edmundson told the audience.

“It’s essential to our working waterfront,” she said.

Grants for the arts went to more than half a dozen organizations including Island Community Chorus, Vineyard Independence Partnership and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society, which makes stringed instruments and music lessons available to Island schoolchildren.

President David Rhoderick said the chamber music society will use its grant to bring another artist in residence to the Vineyard in March, as it did this year with the group Quintango.

The foundation is supporting the Island’s natural environment with grants to the Friends of Sengekontacket, Great Pond Foundation, Lagoon Pond Association and Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group.

Shelley Edmunson represented the Martha's Vineyard Fishermen's Preservation Trust. — Zivah Solomon

Housing grants were awarded to Harbor Homes and to Vineyard House, for upkeep at their residences, and to first-time recipient Havenside Corporation, which operates an apartment complex for seniors on Main street in Vineyard Haven.

Other Island groups awarded grants included Camp Jabberwocky, Sail MV and Healthy Aging MV.

The Woods Hole-based Penikese Island School received funding for Vineyard schoolchildren to attend its environmental learning programs.

Although the community foundation distributes its annual awards in November, Mr. Schulz reminded the crowd that emergency grants to local nonprofits are available at any time of need.

Wednesday’s awards ceremony began with a moment of silence in memory of West Tisbury teenager Waylon Sauer, who lost his life in an automobile accident Tuesday night.

A complete list of 2023 grant recipients is posted at