Community Services Hoped for More
By KATE BRANNEN
Martha's Vineyard Community Services is taking stock after its most important fundraiser of the year, the Possible Dreams Auction, raised far less than last year's auction.
On Thursday afternoon, Community Services reported that $444,000 had been raised on Tuesday night, including sales from admissions and concessions. In 2006, the fundraiser brought in $810,000, providing a substantial part of the organization's budget.
According to executive director Julia Burgess, the Community Services annual budget is about $6 million. A fifth of that, or $1.2 million, comes from private contributions, most of which are raised at the auction.
The organization relies on the auction money to help keep it out of the red. With what's been raised so far, Community Services will have to operate at a loss.
"It's hard to say what the impact will be," said Ms. Burgess in a phone interview two days after the event. The organization is still analyzing the information, she said. Plus, money is still coming in thanks to the online auction where people can keep bidding through August 20. The organization hopes the money raised online will help make up for Tuesday night's loss.
"Community Services needs as much money as it can get," said Jim Shane, auction committee chair.
Community Services is the oldest and only umbrella social services organization on the Island.
With all of its programs combined, the organization serves roughly 6,000 people, about half of the Island's year-round population. Women's Support Services, their domestic violence and sexual assault center, serves more than 400 women a year. The Island Counseling Center provides more than 10,000 visits each year and serves more than 890 Island families.
And the need is going up. Ms. Burgess said she's seeing a rising demand for mental health and substance abuse services.
"We hope not to cut services," she said. "It's absolutely necessary that we provide them."
In order to do so, she said the organization will operate at a loss if it must.
"We'll be as creative as possible to make it work," she said.
The Community Services board will meet the first week in September to discuss a possibly revised budget, based on the results of the auction.
The auction committee also plans to assess the outcome of the event, so that they can better plan for next year.
"No question this was a transition year," Mr. Shane said. "We were hit with the perfect storm without Art and the rain date. I guess we underestimated the impact of that."
He said many of the high bidders, supporters and celebrities who make a point of coming every year were unable to attend the Tuesday rain date. Even the Beetlebung Steel Band had a previously scheduled off-Island gig to attend. He said the committee will have to begin thinking about alternate locations for next year, in the case of rain.
Jan Hatchard, director of development at Community Services, confirmed that attendance was down drastically. Last year, thanks to Art Buchwald's near-miraculous appearance, attendance was unusually high, bringing in around $20,000 in admissions sales. This year, that number was down to $7,000.
Despite the combination of the unfortunate circumstances, it was still a wonderful night, event organizers said.
"I really want to thank the people who came," Ms. Burgess said. "Even though we didn't make as much as we expected to, it's a testament of the support for Community Services."