|Milo Silva (left) and his dad, Maynard, rocked the hall at the PA Club benefit for Sharon Rzemien Saturday night.
"I'm stuck on one word - unbelievable!" said Sharon Rzemien about the fundraiser held on her behalf Saturday night at the PA club in Oak Bluffs. "What a great place we live."
The popular Ms. Rzemien, former animal control officer in Oak Bluffs then Tisbury, has not worked since June, 2005, when several strokes incapacitated her. Although she reports she is on the mend, the recovery is a long and tedious one.
After using her sick time and vacation benefits, Ms. Rzemien continued to receive payments from Tisbury, thanks to an arrangement whereby fellow town employees donated their sick time to her. This minimal income enabled her to pay for health insurance and other medical and rehabilitation costs.
Last month, a group of friends decided to hold a benefit for Ms. Rzemien who, many say, always extended herself for animals and their owners.
"She went above and beyond," said Mary Orcutt of Good Dog Goods. "She never said no."
Nor did anyone say no when it came to helping Ms. Rzemien. Plans for the fundraiser came together quickly, with countless individuals and businesses donating food and auction items. A band of friends and colleagues took on the many volunteer tasks to make the event run smoothly.
Some 300 guests arrived early, stayed late, visiting with Sharon, enjoying a home-cooked buffet feast, bidding generously and often, and dancing up a storm.
Even after the party ended, donations were still pouring in. On Tuesday afternoon Kerry Scott, one of the organizers, reported the total raised was $26,500, and still growing.
Ms. Rzemien will use that money for living and health care expenses as she continues her recovery. Difficult though it is to wait for her strength to return, Ms. Rzemien says she is working to be patient with herself, and she is determined. "I will be back out there working with people and their animals again," she said.
Despite the difficulties she's endured, Sharon Rzemien is brimming over with gratitude that the strokes were not worse, thankfulness for being alive, and appreciation for the many helping hands she has received over the past months. She mentioned Jacquie Callahan, "the best landlady ever," who stocked Ms. Rzemien's freezer with meals, drove her to medical appointments, and ran errands. And, she said, there have been many others, all doing something to ease her burdens.
Ms. Rzemien, originally from Rehoboth, said that off-Island family members who attended the benefit were amazed at the number of well-wishers and the outpouring of support from the community.
"I have met some of the best people the world has to offer on this Island," said Ms. Rzemien. I could never leave here."
To make tax-deductible donations to benefit Sharon Rzemien: Make out checks to: You've got a Friend, Inc., noting "for Sharon Rzemien," and mail to: Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank, P.O. Box 668, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.