Today is Philanthropy Day on Martha’s Vineyard. Proclaimed by Dukes County, it’s a day to honor everyone, seasonal and year-round for the tremendous amount of time and money you donate to preserve the Vineyard and keep its nonprofits running.
In the last year there’s been a lot of philanthropy to thank you for. Some of it preserved or improved important Island institutions.
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum purchased the former Marine Hospital in Vineyard Haven so they can expand their offerings, provide proper storage for their collections and increase their role in the community. Thanks to those who helped raise the $3.5 million to purchase the property and maintain it while they plan the reconstruction.
The Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center opened at the YMCA, offering 5,000 square feet of teen-friendly space for hanging out, cooking, studying, using computers, playing pinball or pool or using a state-of-the-art recording studio. We thank everyone who helped make this important resource for Island teens a reality. Special thanks to Jacques and Marfi Gagnon who donated over $1 million from a foundation they set up as a tribute to their daughter, a summer resident who died at 23 from battling drug addiction. We also thank Comcast and the Vineyard businesses and contractors who donated equipment or their services.
The Vineyard Playhouse started a much-needed expansion and restoration of their historic building, including a redesigned stage and seating area. Thanks to those who donated the $1 million they needed to start, and to those that have or will donate toward the second million they need to finish.
The Oak Bluffs fireworks will be back this August 17 thanks to a major donation from Black Entertainment Television. The Oak Bluffs fireman’s civic association was about to pull the plug on this traditional summer event because they couldn’t afford it anymore.
Sail Martha’s Vineyard was able to buy six brand-new 420s (they had only been able to afford used boats before) for use by the high school sailing team. Thanks to those who donated to float this fleet.
The Island Housing Trust received its single largest donation ever: a property on Water street near Five Corners in Vineyard Haven, which it will rebuild for needed workforce housing. Thanks to Cronig’s owner Steve Bernier who bought the lot to protect his business interests, but surprised everyone with the gift to the housing trust. We also thank Steve for his ongoing philanthropy and community involvement through his stores and personally, including his work on the founding board of Island Grown Initiative and as board president for the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.
The Vineyard high school tennis teams had their best year ever. The boys were undefeated and were state division champs. The girls finished 18-3 and were league champs. Every player on both teams developed their tennis skills at Vineyard Youth Tennis before they were in high school, and this organization definitely deserves part of the credit for this year’s success. Youth tennis offers lessons and unlimited court time year round, free to Island children in grades two through 12, and since Vineyard Youth Tennis was founded only 10 years ago, the high school is just starting to enjoy the fruits of this program. Thanks to the great coaches and staff at youth tennis. However, the real honor goes to the man who prefers to remain anonymous but had the vision to make tennis a life sport for kids by making it extremely accessible, and who built and permanently endowed this wonderful facility which has been enjoyed by thousands of Vineyard children.
Thimble Farm, one of the largest on Island, will remain a working farm thanks to the generosity of Allen and Shelley Holt and Eric Grubman, which enabled the Island Grown Initiative to purchase it for $2.6 million. This forever protects 40 acres of working landscape, important local jobs and a major source of local food.
These examples show how much Vineyard nonprofits and your philanthropy help preserve the character of the Island. You can learn more about the impact of Island nonprofits in our Philanthropy Day newsletter which is inserted in today’s Gazette.
There are other forms of philanthropy that are lower profile but just as important as capital campaigns and big contributions. We also salute those who open their homes to host fund-raising events or host visiting artists or speakers, and we thank everyone who bought raffle tickets, donated food, attended fund-raising events, endured donor fatigue or bought auction items, with special thanks to those who overbid for them.
We also salute the local business community for their tremendous support of Island nonprofits with contributions of cash and in-kind services. There are too many of these unsung heroes to name individually but we highlight a few who give so much to the community like Sharkey’s, Flatbread, Vineyard Bottled Waters, Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank and the Mansion House.
Another less visible but very important form of philanthropy is volunteerism. Our nonprofits would cease to function without volunteers to serve on boards, help with fundraising events or help run programs. We salute all volunteers, whether you were one of the 275 who collected trash from our beaches as part of the Vineyard Conservation Society’s annual beach clean-up or whether you are like James L. Harrison Jr., who has been a dedicated Meals on Wheels volunteer driver for 23 years.
Our newsletter also includes the startling statistic that Meals on Wheels drivers like James delivered 37,086 meals in 2012 (fiscal year), up from 27,177 in 2010. This increase is due to the natural aging of our population plus economic pressure on folks living on fixed or marginal incomes. Unfortunately, this and other issues our elders face will only get worse as waves of baby boomers retire to the Island.
As great as your philanthropic efforts have been there is still much to be done and new issues to address. We finish our Philanthropy Day salute by thanking you again and encouraging you to continue, or increase, your Island philanthropy, recognizing that whether your contributions are large or small, you are helping to keep this a special place.
Peter Temple is executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative.