Looming thunderstorms and ominous skies did not detract from the excitement at the Boch family estate in Katama on a recent Thursday night. A core group of volunteers who had worked selflessly behind the scenes for weeks to produce what was one of the best Water Tastings by the Sea in 15 years, a benefit for Vineyard House, stood together in anticipation. We were not disappointed.
In full Edgartown regalia, supporters came over the hill by foot and trolley to the festive, white-poled tent, its three Vineyard House blue finial flags beckoning. They hailed from all towns to support what has become a great Island initiative — Vineyard House.
As I walked through the crowd, I did my usual unscientific survey as to why people were there, and the constant answer was: “Addiction is a community problem whether we like it or not, it affects all of us.” Despite all its glory, the Vineyard’s seasonal economy breeds an elevated habitat for alcohol and drug addiction and depression-related substance abuse. I sit on a beach and soak in all the sun, watch the osprey fish and smell the sweet smell of schooling fish, but I have to remember I am on vacation. I have a job that goes 365 days a year. Having lived here year-round, I know the chill of the winter wind, the deep gray of the sky and the sting of lack of work, despite all my efforts. I am grateful and in my gratitude I am reminded how lucky I am. Vineyard House provides Vineyarders the supportive care needed to transition back into Vineyard society with the hope and aspiration of becoming positive contributing members.
In preparing for the event, I read through oral histories of previous graduates of Vineyard House recorded by Mary Nada, a longtime supporter, and I had an Aha! moment — this model really works. In the words of one graduate: “I learned to live in sobriety while right here in my own community, where I planned to continue living.” Another said: “I grew up on the Vineyard. If Vineyard House hadn’t been there for me, I doubt I would be alive now.”
If it were me, I could go back to Connecticut and move to the next town over and reinvent myself, but on the Vineyard would I have that luxury?
The evening went on without a hitch; the raffle featured donated items from Juliska, a sail of the Charlotte with a gourmet boxed dinner by the Art Cliff Diner, and an incredible 1943 painting graciously given by Doug Seward of the Gay Head Cliffs with the last known Noman’s dory. It was only fitting that the Vineyard Haven harbor master, a longtime supporter of Vineyard House, won the painting in front of a group of hundreds. I asked Jay a few days later about his read on the event (another science experiment), and without missing a beat he said: “I am about as Yankee as one gets when it comes to spending money, but I would have paid double to support such a wonderful cause. It was a special night. Winning the painting was a bonus!”
The silent auction was overwhelmingly supported with donations from all over the Island; the community was solidly behind the event. At every turn I saw the Vineyard, the people you stand in the line with at Cronig’s, the drivers who share the navigation of Five Corners with you and the gentle folk who give you a half wave on North Road each day. I was proud to be a part of it. At one point I looked over and the Boch family was happily sitting on their dock with Vineyard House guests, as if we had all known each other all our lives — community.
The rain held off, the wind stayed away and the night ended with a sigh of “well done.”
There is peace in the balance of taking in the Vineyard and giving out. Join us.
— Lucy Patterson Cox