The Spirit of the Vineyard Award, sponsored by Vineyard Village at Home, is given annually to a person who has contributed to the Island community by the length and breadth of their volunteer service. This year, it will be given to Jean Lewellyn of Vineyard Haven.
According to a press release, Jean grew up on the south shore of Long Island, and, from the age of 2 weeks, spent time on a sailboat. She and her family cruised every summer, and often came to Vineyard Haven, Edgartown, and Menemsha harbors. Jean and her husband, Bruce, continue their sailing life with a 20-foot Cat they keep in Tashmoo, but they no longer take long cruises. They needed a land base for their growing family of three children and grandchildren. They chose the Vineyard as a retirement home because, she said, “I wanted to be someplace where there is a sense of community — where there are interested, active people who do things to make where they are a better place.” The Vineyard fit that description, and Jean and Bruce contribute to that spirit with their volunteer work.
Jean’s parents were role models for volunteering. Her mother worked tirelessly for the Red Cross, and her father was a volunteer fireman who also worked with the school board and local air raid shelter. As an adult, Jean fit volunteering in with her work as an elementary school teacher and a “soccer mom” to her children.
When they moved to the Vineyard, Jean immediately began to look for things to do to help out. She had been part of a women’s corps of Habitat for Humanity in New Haven, and she and Bruce have worked on five such houses on the Vineyard. She missed the kids she had taught, so she volunteered for ReadMV, reading to children in the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury elementary schools. Marrying her educational and sailing background, she joined the board of Sail MV.
“I didn’t want to be the head of anything,” Jean said; “I want to be one of the workers.” And that’s what she does.
Jean has been on the Eastville Beach Committee, which cleaned up the beach and improved the parking access; she was a “citizen scientist” for Felix Neck and the Audubon Society, looking for dead birds on the beach, which she measured and took to Felix Neck for research; she participated in the horseshoe crab count; she looked for rare flowers and plants, and is active in the annual beach cleanup under the auspices of the Vineyard Conservation Society; she has been a volunteer for Hospice for about 10 years; she has “Jean’s Shelf” in the Vineyard Haven library, which she inspects frequently (and generally finds in apple-pie order); she works at the Thrift Shop for Community Services one morning a week; she drives regularly for Vineyard Village at Home; and she and Bruce often volunteer to help out on fundraising events for these and other organizations, including Featherstone Center for the Arts.
Always an environmentalist, Jean joined the board of Tisbury Waterways (TWI), where she is an officer; she also works on the newsletter and maintaining the many swales and gardens the TWI planned and implemented.
Most of these organizations don’t rely on her leadership skills, but all rely on her dedication and effectiveness. She estimates that she spends 13 to 15 hours a week doing volunteer work. Jean is an outstanding example of the people nonprofit organizations need to accomplish their mission.
The award will be presented on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at 9 am at the Federated Church in Edgartown, where Jean sings in the choir. All are welcome.