Speaking to the people
John Anderson of West Tisbury is a sailor, cook, housepainter, homeowner, father of two, devoted son to his elderly mother, bon vivant, and now, pitch-man for the Martha's Vineyard Hospital's campaign to raise $42 million to replace its decrepit medical center. John's image appears in advertisements testifying to the importance of the hospital for Islanders. John's testimony, and that of so many other recognizable friends and neighbors, is part of the hospital leadership's multi-part effort to strengthen its bond with its constituents. Among these constituents - really, all of us - are patients and donors, and many who may be both. The hospital wants Islanders who need medical services to regard the hospital as not only the front line of care, but also the dependable long distance runner in the delivery of medical services, an asset central to their long-term wellbeing. And, the hospital wants Islanders to regard the hospital fundraising effort as worthy of their financial support.
Hospital leaders know that, apart from emergency care, first-rate, even world-class, medical care is available for serious ailments in medical centers on the mainland nearby. They know that Islanders know, and that they will certainly avail themselves of those services. The hospital officials also know that there lurks some skepticism about the quality of medical care here, not about the energetic and compassionate nature of the care, but about its up-to-date-ness. That skepticism has been a part of the attitude of Islanders toward the hospital for at least four decades, from before the existing hospital was opened in the mid-1970s, and it is likely to survive all of the modern innovations envisioned by the current crop of thoughtful, devoted, practical leaders, and all the new physicians.
And these leaders know that, at the moment, in awe over the $42 million mountain the hospital proposes to climb, and aware that nearly a third of the sum has already been pledged by a small group of wealthy summer residents, Islanders may be thinking, Let the rich pay all the freight.
But now, the fundraising effort is pointed at us, with the help of John, and Bridget Tobin, and Carol Kolodny, and others, and now, the question is, Will everyday Islanders step up? This morning, Nelson Sigelman, The Times news editor, describes a gathering at the Chilmark house of Edward Miller and Monina Von Opel. Mr. Miller is a hospital board member. The Islanders who enjoyed the evening's hospitality included several Island contractors, a metal artist, a hardware store owner, attorneys, a West Tisbury selectman, local realtors, two doctors, a Chilmark librarian, and Mr. Sigelman. They learned about the hospital's building plans and its fundraising goals. Several such gatherings are part of the hospital's strategy to tell its story directly to Islanders who may be persuaded to help, and in turn may be persuaded to ask other friends to help as well.
Mr. Anderson, who has added hospital fundraising committee member to his astonishing catalogue of occupations, made a parting request to the evening's guests.
"Tell a friend; tell two friends; tell three friends," he asked. "That's what we need to get people involved. We need people to understand."
To understand, and then to decide if they will embrace this hospital as their own, not only as customers but as supporters.