To the Editor:
Red Stocking has done it again. Last Friday we distributed food, clothing, and toys to 425 children from 267 Island families. Last year, we provided for 419 children from 274 families. These numbers would seem to indicate that while the need has not decreased, it also has not increased significantly. There is hope.
This mountain of gifts represents approximately 5,000 individual items that have been bought by our volunteer shoppers or donated by individuals, businesses, organizations, and churches, coded by number to protect confidentiality, wrapped by dozens of tireless volunteers, and distributed in the space of three hours last week. It boggles the mind that this feat can be accomplished with fewer than a half dozen mistakes.
All of our efforts this year have been made in memory of Barbara Silvia, our longtime Red Stocking treasurer, who died a couple of weeks ago. Over many, many years, Barbara worked tirelessly in support of Red Stocking. She considered it payback for the years long ago when her own family was on the receiving end. She was never too proud to talk about this fact. Even when she had increasingly serious health issues during the past year, she refused to give up her responsibilities or accept assistance. In November, she was at her post, passing out coffee and doughnuts to the Harley riders and accepting their $17,000 check. The Vineyard needs more volunteers like Barbara Silvia. She will be sorely missed. Susie WaIlo will replace her as treasurer, with a new address at Box 600 in Edgartown.
Last year, in our annual thank-you letter, we addressed the difficult subject of prejudice in a small but vocal segment of the community. We are very pleased to report that little or none of these negative sentiments were heard this year. This is not to say that it doesn’t still linger in the community, but at least it has lessened, and this is good. There is hope.
Continuing with the theme of payback and hope, we would like to share a touching incident from this season. In early November, we were approached by a very, very excited young single mother who was literally jumping with joy. Her family had been Red Stocking recipients for several years. She was anxious to share some exciting family news. Not knowing what to expect, we let her continue to make her announcement.
“Guess what. We don’t need Red Stocking this year, and we want to pay back for all that Red Stocking has done for us in the past. We want to sponsor a child and provide all the clothing and toys for him.”
After hugging her and thanking her in advance, we offered to provide the bicycle that was wished for by her sponsored child.
“Absolutely not. We will get him a bike also,” she said.
Last Thursday, she and her family arrived at Grace Church with bags of beautifully wrapped presents, including the bicycle. We told her that she was one of heroines, and her reply was, “Red Stocking took very good care of me for all the years I needed it, and now it’s time for us to pay back”.
One of our volunteer wrappers nearby overheard this and told us later that she had to stop wrapping because of the tears in her eyes. It is so gratifying to be able to report this joyful story. There is hope!
The effort needed to care for 425 children is monumental. We are able to do this year after year only because the Island community provides as with such remarkable support. The Harley riders are always there in November. The Chowder Contest participants are always there in December. The Chili Contest entrants are always there in January. Brickman’s and Basics are always there to code, wrap, store, and deliver truckloads of clothing, boots, and shoes. The wrappers always show up to do their job. The Grace Church family — Rev. Rob, Pat, Ted — are always there to give up their offices, hallways, sanctuary, and even one bathroom this year, to provide us space. They even ensure that the volunteers have snacks and lunch so they can keep right on working.
The 425 homemade gingerbread men arrive to top off each child’s bag. Each of the schools does its fundraiser without being asked. The churches do their part year after year. And the financial contributors are always there to write the checks without being asked. With all of this support, how can we fail to have a successful year. On behalf of 425 children, we thank you all. There is much hope!
Kerry H. Alley
Red Stocking Fund