Island school children
Island school children collect food for the pantry. MV Times file photos

Rockin' for hunger relief

By Michelle D. Nepton - September 27, 2007

Get your dancing shoes ready for some good old soul and rock 'n' roll. This Sunday, Sept. 30, the Vineyard Committee on Hunger (VCOH) will sponsor their second annual fund-raising dance and silent auction at 7 pm at Outerland.

Coin jars on counters throughout the Island with "Vineyard Committee on Hunger" labels may have fuelled your curiosity about the organization. The VCOH was established approximately 35 years ago to raise awareness and alleviate hunger on Martha's Vineyard and worldwide. It relies on donations from the community to help support the Island Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels, and national and international hunger organizations such as Oxfam America and Save the Children, Heifer Project, Fish Farm for Haiti, and Care Worldwide. They also sponsor an emergency food service, giving food directly to Vineyard families in times of need. To fund their donations, the eight members of the Committee rely on these coin jars and fundraising events such as the one on Sunday.

Rev. Alden Besse
The Rev. Alden Besse is a tireless worker for the Vineyard Committee on Hunger.

A new program, Family to Family, was added to the VCOH's on-Island projects last year. Prior to Thanksgiving of 2006, an appeal for support was issued to Island places of worship. There was a great response to the need and roughly 60 Island families were provided with a Thanksgiving meal. "We hope to do it again this year," said Carole Early, a VCOH member.

According to Ms. Early, the Committee gives 40 percent of their income to Island food resources, 40 percent to national and international organizations, and 20 percent is kept in case of a local, national, or international emergency. Carole indicated that just this summer, the Vineyard Haven Thrift Store alone brought in $350 from their counter jar. Carole has also been involved in planning for this weekend's event. She said, "People have been very, very generous. What we've been trying to do is ask service people and local artists for donations, not only the usual shopkeepers, though they, as always, have also been great."

Between eating, drinking, and dancing, there will be opportunities to bid on an array of services, gift certificates, and beautiful items from Island artists and shops that are being offered in a silent auction. Generous Island artists have contributed original jewelry, photographs, and artwork. Also up for bid are Cape Air tickets, suites and rooms at Island hotels and bed and breakfasts, and dinners at several restaurants. For entertaining at home, bidders can choose from a stainless steel gas grill, BBQ equipment, wine and beer coolers, lobsters, lobster-eating utensils, beautiful serving platters, and, of course, flowers for the table. For bidders interested in health and beauty, a massage, a facial, a health food gift certificate, and chiropractic services will be available. A generous Island electrician has donated three hours of electrical work, and Vern Laux has offered a private bird watching tour for ten people. VCOH is also offering a private tour of Polly Hill Arboretum, a two-week membership at a local health club, and several gift baskets. For those with a creative edge, art classes and writing workshops are available for bidding. Finally, there will be plenty of toys and clothes for the kids and grandkids.

Carole Early
Carole Early holds up a sign announcing the annual bread sale is underway, under the Linden tree in Vineyard Haven.

One of Lola's top DJs, Steve McCullough, will be spinning tracks from decades past. Outerland, which has kindly donated their space to the cause, has made up a special food and drink menu. Barry Rosenthal, owner of the venue, said, "We have donated the space here in some form to over 30 charities this year. It's one way we're making the Outerland more of a community venue. The Vineyard Committee On Hunger is one of the Island's great organizations and we support their work. We hope the night will be a success."

The Vineyard Committee on Hunger meets monthly, from September until June, If you'd like to get involved, contact one of the members.

But first, come celebrate the end of summer, support your community, and dance your socks off this Sunday, Sept. 30. If you have any questions, would like to donate goods or services, or for tickets that are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, call Carole Early at 508-693-7914 or Jeri Dantzig at 508-696-0874.

Michelle D. Nepton is a contributing writer to The Times.