File photo by Ralph Stewart
Giving — we all know this is what the winter holidays are about. For many of us the giving of gifts, and sharing of food is the most joyful aspect of this time of year. Giving allows us to express our love, our gratitude, our appreciation, and our belief in family, friends, employees, clients, and organizations. The happy excitement when a child unwraps a new toy, the anticipatory grins when our loved ones sit down to a holiday meal we have prepared, are heart-warming and fulfilling.
When it comes to holiday donations for our favorite charities and nonprofits, the feelings can be just as profound. Donating to an organization lets us touch the lives of strangers and help someone whose need may be much deeper than we will ever know. And though the past few years have been economically challenging for many of us personally and professionally, that doesn't mean we have to be deprived of the joy of charitable giving. If we give creatively there are many ways to thank and support our favorite Island nonprofits.
Money is always at the top of an organizations list — and no one is going to scoff at a smaller donation. You can always make a donation in someone's name as a beautiful holiday gift for a big-hearted friend or colleague who seems to have everything. This can help introduce people you care about to a new and worthy organization and they won't have to find space in the closet for it, or put it in the Bargain Box later. Volunteer's hours, specialty skill-sets and services, office supplies, and gently used equipment are often appreciated by nonprofits. And remember no matter how much or how little you're able to give you still get a tax deduction.
We've compiled a list of some of the Vineyard's hard working nonprofits and some ideas of what they might need from us this holiday season. If you don't see your favorite charity included, just give them a call and ask them about their holiday wish list — some of the items on it may be sitting in your garage.
Red Stocking Fund provides holiday toys and clothes for Vineyard kids in need. Items can be dropped off — unwrapped — at Grace Church or at Kerry Alley's house on Shirley Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
Kerry Alley says the following new, unwrapped items are at the top of the Red Stocking holiday list:
1. New warm hats and mittens for the older kids. Red Stocking gets lots of cute winter clothes for babies and tots but the older kids need winter gear too. Do you knit? Have a knitting/sewing party and make some cool hats, scarves, and mittens for the teen and pre-teen set.
2. New Books — especially board books for little ones. Many stores who donated children's books before won't be able to give as many as they have in the past.
3. New toys for all ages — don't have any little ones at home? This is a perfect excuse to go into a toy store and have some fun!
4. Volunteers to wrap — call Patricia Carlet at 508-693-3187, gift wrapping starts on 12/12 at Grace Church.
5. Money! You can send tax deductible donations to the Red Stocking Fund c/o Kerry Alley P.O. Box 346, Oak Bluffs, MA, 02557; or c/o Barbara Silvia 66 Midland Avenue, Vineyard Haven, MA, 02568.
Island Food Pantry provides food for Island families and individuals qualifying for food assistance.
Armen Hanjian says helping out is cheap and easy and always appreciated.
Drop boxes are located at most local grocery stores.
1. Money — any amount. Since the Food Pantry gets deep discounts when buying food supplies your small donation can go a long way. If you can give a large amount, go for it — it's tax deductible and the Food Pantry is a very direct, simple way to make someone's holiday brighter.
2. Peanut butter — any size, any brand — and while you are at it throw in a jar of jam, or how about a bag of nuts?
3. Tuna fish — you can donate a single can or a whole case.
4. Sugar, throw in a jar of honey, or bottle of maple syrup as a special treat.
5. Low-sodium canned soups, and vegetables.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Martha's Vineyard provides local children ages 7 to 12 with caring, responsible adult mentors. The agency serves more than 40 children and below are Executive Director Hadley Luddy's top five donation requests:
1. Activity support such as movie tickets, admission to local events, and donated dance classes, swimming lessons, or other activities for Bigs and Littles to enjoy together.
2. Advisory Board Members — give your time and skills and get more involved in supporting this special organization.
3. Volunteers to support Special Events — even if you don't have much time to give a couple hours of volunteering can make a difference.
4. Financial Donations — any amount can help out.
5. Get involved — Maybe you'd like to be a big brother or sister – contact Connie (below) she'll tell you how.
If you would like to help in any of these ways, please call Connie Alexander at 508-693-0101 or visit bbbscci.org.
The Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS) is a member-supported nonprofit environmental organization working for nearly 50 years to inform the public about local environmental issues and advocate for the preservation of the land, water and character of the Island.
Programs include the free, bi-weekly "Conservation Almanac" electronic newsletter, legal defense work at Moshup Trail, activities to protect and restore the Island's ground and surface waters, dissemination of information about energy conservation and local impacts of climate change, and public events like Winter Walks, Living Local, and the annual Earth Day Beach Cleanup.
Director Brendan O'Neill's VCS wish list includes:
1. Dollars to underwrite a workshop on Island-wide composting.
2. Dollars to produce more of the popular "This is a Vineyard Lawn" signage.
3. A medium-range (~20 ft.) wireless USB device for PowerPoint presentations.
4. Money and/or volunteer time to support the inventory and conversion of 20 years of VHS video archives.
5. Money and/or volunteer time support to convert records on 5.25 floppy disks to current technology.
Martha's Vineyard Housing Fund — The Island Affordable Housing Fund (IAHF), now the Martha's Vineyard Housing Fund (MVHF), is primarily a fundraising organization, but MVHF also works to advocate and educate in order to fundraise effectively and works in partnership with the other Island housing organizations.
1. Gifts of money can be given directly to MVHF or serve the greater mission of more and better affordable Island housing by being channeled toward any of the partner organizations such as Habitat for Humanity Martha's Vineyard, Dukes County Regional Housing Authority (DCRHA), and Island Housing Trust (IHT).
2. Volunteers skilled in Social Media tool development and content creation. Facebook and My Space addicts can put their habits to good use helping to update and develop MVHF's page.
3. Volunteers to advise and work on MVHF branding campaigns — do you have a background in advertising, marketing, or PR and some time on your hands? MVHF has a project for you. Use your talents and training to make a difference in the lives of Island families in need of a place to call home.
4. Volunteer skills and time to assist in upcoming "Outreach Campaign" — write a brilliant fundraising letter, craft an appealing marketing e-blast, host a fundraising party or event.
5. Get involved in the next Habitat for Humanity building project — no construction experience necessary — bring your friends and family and make it a group volunteer experience.
The possibilities and ways to give, help, and get involved are numerous — being broke is no reason to be a scrooge. Holiday giving is good for the heart, the soul, and the community.
Elissa Lash is a writer, yoga teacher, and birth doula who lives in Vineyard Haven with her husband and two children. She has just completed her first novel and is working her way toward publication.