“You get more than you give,” says Susie Wallo, co-chair of the Red Stocking Fund. “You get the joy of helping children.”
Since the 1930s, the local nonprofit has provided gifts for kids whose families are in need. Every year the Red Stocking Fund distributes toys, clothing, and books for 300 to 400 children. The toys are provided by individuals and local organizations.
The donors come from all sectors of the community. “We find it happening with people who don’t have much money and send us a check for $10, or groups or individuals who send us hundreds of dollars,” say Ms. Wallo. “It’s a little bit like being Santa Claus.”
There are numerous ways to take part in the effort. People can send a check, drop off toys at boxes set up at various Island businesses, or call to arrange a drop-off of gifts. Everything must be new and unwrapped. “We can’t give gently used clothing or toys,” says Ms. Wallo. “It’s a federal law.”
“It doesn’t have to be much,” says Ms. Wallo. “We’re happy to get anything — a couple of packs of playing cards or a jump rope.” Every kid gets a book and some art supplies, donated by local businesses.
People can also sponsor a child. Anyone interested in this option will be provided with the age and gender of a child in need. They can purchase either clothing (sizes provided) or toys (from the child’s wish list), or both. All kids get pajamas, underwear, and socks. Parents provide a list of the most-needed items – winter coats, boots, etc.
“A lot of families choose to sponsor a child or siblings,” says Ms. Wallo, “so that their children understand how blessed they are to have what they have, and so that they can share their blessings with those who aren’t as fortunate.”
Book clubs and church groups often get together to sponsor kids, according to Ms. Wallo.
On Nov. 8, 33 members of the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders participated in their annual Red Stocking Fund Run. After a tour of the Island, collecting toys and donations along the way, the Harley Riders presented the Red Stocking Fund with a check for $13,598, along with lots of toys and nine bicycles. Other fundraising efforts include the annual Martha’s Vineyard Big Chili Contest in January, and the Chowder Contest, held each year during Christmas in Edgartown. School groups often get together for fundraising efforts.
The recipients of the toys include families from every town. “So many of the folks that we help are what we could call the working poor,” says Ms. Wallo. “They are hard-working people. They are what makes the Island run in the summer, but in the winter they don’t have much, because their rent and utilities are so high that there’s nothing left over. It’s really hard for them to ask for help, a lot of times. They have a teacher, nurse, or someone from day care who will tell them, ‘Go ahead, that’s what Red Stocking is all about.’ No one has to know. Everything is kept completely confidential.”
“Sometimes they may never need us again. Or they may. It doesn’t matter. That’s what we’re here for.”
To make a donation, send a check made out to Red Stocking Fund to P.O. Box 600, Edgartown, MA 02539, or call Susie Wallo at 508-776-6050. The annual Stuff an Ambulance Red Stocking Toy Drive will take place at the Oak Bluffs Fire Department on Saturday, Dec. 5, from 10 to 4.
Wrapping events will be held at St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven on Tuesday, Dec. 15, from 5 to 8 pm, and Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 16 and 17, from 9 to 4. Volunteers are needed to help wrap, sort, and number the gifts.
Red Stocking Wish List
Balls and other sports items
Cards and puzzles
Checkers and other interactive games
Boys’ winter gloves