Thanks for giving: Help at the holidays on Martha’s Vineyard

How many yards of Scotch tape does it take to wrap holiday gifts for more than 400 Island children? — File photo by Ralph Stewart

Taking on some volunteer work this time of year is a great way to celebrate the season by giving the gift of time. The following charitable organizations are just a sampling of Vineyard charities that can always use help from the community in order to make the holidays a little brighter for everyone.

Red Stocking

For over 70 years, The Red Stocking Fund has provided gifts for children whose families’ budgets can’t quite accommodate Christmas shopping. Last year the program supplied toys, books, and more for more than 400 children. Money and donations come from the public. However, once the gifts are gathered, there is plenty of work to do to ensure that every kid has something under the Christmas tree.

Patricia Carlet, volunteer coordinator, says that they employ an army of volunteers to sort, wrap, and pack. From Monday, Dec. 10 through Thursday, Dec. 13, a crew of elves will be set up at Grace Church in Vineyard Haven preparing for gift distribution on Friday. “It’s an amazing scene to watch 40 or 50 volunteers sorting and packing,” says Ms. Carlet. Those interested in helping out can call Ms. Carlet at 508-693-3187.

The Red Stocking Fund also always needs donations. Ms. Carlet notes that the majority of kids they serve are very young – under six – and they can use gifts such as blocks and educational toys for this age range. Arts and crafts supplies are always welcome, as are books. Ms. Carlet, a former librarian, tries to give each child at least two books but ran short last year.

All donated goods must be new. People are discouraged from contributing electronic or very expensive gifts. You can donate by calling 508-693-3187.

The Red Stocking Fund also seeks individuals and businesses to sponsor a child. The fund provides information about the age and sex of the child to a sponsor, who then is asked to furnish a winter wardrobe. Those interested can contact Kerry Alley at 508-693-2324.

Salvation Army

Ring in the holidays – literally – by volunteering for the Salvation Army. The local chapter seeks volunteers to set up at three Island locations to solicit donations for what is the organization’s big fundraising drive of the year.

“Everything that goes into the kettles this time of year goes to the Vineyard,” says Rick Reinhardsen, head of the local chapter. The organization helps get people back on their feet during critical times by providing temporary financial assistance in the form of food vouchers, clothing, household items, as well as fuel and rent assistance.

“We also do counseling and referrals to make sure people are availing themselves of the services on the Island,” says Mr. Reinhardsen.

He notes the community has been very supportive and generous in the seven years that the organization has existed on Island and that bell ringers find the work very gratifying. “Most enjoy it so much,” he says. “They get to meet people and chat.”

Call Mr. Reinhardsen at 774-563-9436 to be paired with an experienced volunteer.

Fish Farm for Haiti

Fish Farm for Haiti will not have a dedicated holiday shop this year as they have in the past. However, director Margaret Penicaud says that they will set up at various holiday bazaars and need assistance with: unpacking and sorting the goods, setting up, and selling.

The Vineyard-based charitable organization offers handmade products from artisans in Haiti, as well as gift items from self-help projects around the globe. All of the profits go to the Fish Farm project. Ms. Penicaud notes that, to date, the organization has raised money for five ponds, a school and living quarters, a vegetable garden, a poultry production program, and more, in Haiti.

Volunteers manning the vendor booths should be interested in talking to people about the group’s sponsor-a-child program and Fish Farm projects. It’s a nice opportunity for people who enjoy engaging with the public and learning more about world issues. Fish Farm is also seeking donations of vendor space at Christmas fairs and bazaars. Call 508-693 0368 to volunteer or offer space, or visit for more information.


The Family-to-Family program provides all of the ingredients for a holiday meal to hundreds of local families both at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

For $25, an individual or group can fund a bag of food for a family in need. The Christmas dinners are handed out on December 21, and the distribution process requires many hands. Director Betty Burton notes that they can always use people to pack the bags, stock shelves, and carry bags for elders and handicapped recipients. Volunteers are needed from noon to about 4 pm. Call Betty Burton at 508-693-5339 to sign up.

Family-to-Family can always use donations of food and, of course, monetary contributions. If people want to donate any non-perishable items, including toiletries, paper products, and cleaning supplies, they can drop them off any time on December 21 from 9 am to 12:30 pm at the First Baptist Church Parish Hall on William Street in Vineyard Haven. Items must unopened and not past their expiration date.

Sponsor a family meal by sending a check for $25 made out to Vineyard Committee on Hunger (or VCOH) to P.O. Box 4685, Vineyard Haven MA 02568 – indicate Family to Family on the check. You can also visit for more information.

Hospice of M.V.

Every year, during Christmas in Edgartown, Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard sets up a one-day holiday shop, Handmade from the Heart, at the Dr. Daniel Fischer House, where people can purchase all sorts of handmade items.

The organization can always use donations of crafts, artwork, preserves, candy, or baked goods. Jewelry, knitted items, Christmas ornaments, photographs, paintings, etc. are also welcome. The money raised goes directly towards helping Vineyarders with end of life services. The organization is totally community supported. Anyone interested in donating to Handmade from the Heart can call the Hospice office 508-693-0189 before December 8.