Tom Bennett + Mary Brissette = 70 years of service


After 40 years of service to the Island community, Tom Bennett was perhaps the brightest luminary Monday night at the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ (MVCS) often-emotional event recognizing the work of staff, volunteers, and board members.

But like his colleagues, including Mary Brissette, Head Start education and family services coordinator, who was celebrating 30 years with MVCS as well as her 30th wedding anniversary, Mr. Bennett exhibited gratitude and humility for the opportunity to help Island residents with life struggles.

And like his colleagues, Mr. Bennett would return to his work Tuesday morning as associate executive director/senior clinical adviser in charge of emergency services.

As he waited for the festivities at the Mediterranean restaurant in Oak Bluffs to begin, the Edgartown native remembered his mentors at MVCS as the organization prepares for its 50th year as the Island’s go-to social service agency. “Milt Mazur, so instrumental in the life of Community Services, told me back in the late 1980s that he was just relieved to see the next generation — staff, volunteers and board — in place and carrying on the work,” he said. “He felt he did his job. That’s how I’m feeling. This is a team.”

Recognition night is an annual event for the Island’s largest provider of social services. With nearly 100 employees, MVCS provides an array of children’s programs, family and individual counseling, and referral, disability, and health services, as well as legal services and advocacy for domestic abuse victims. MVCS also operates the Thrift Shop in Vineyard Haven on Lagoon Pond Road.

Commenting on the 70 years of work provided by Ms. Brissette and Mr. Bennett, Julia Burgess, MVCS executive director, said, “It really is remarkable to think that these two people have spent more than half their lives here, contributing to community well-being.”

Though the agency is busily beating the drums these days for the Possible Dreams auction, its annual mega-fundraiser, on August 2, the agenda Monday night was not about money.

Recognition was the only agenda, and 20 recipients, including Ms. Brissette and Mr. Bennett, were lauded. Commendations from both U.S. senators Kerry and Brown and from the Massachusetts legislature were presented to Ms. Brissette and Mr. Bennett. Sterling Bishop, an MVCS development office staffer, presented Mr. Bennett with a photo of a Vietnam War memorial sculpture by resident Barney Zeitz.

The sculpture, which has graced the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven, will be relocated on the MVCS grounds across from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School with a plaque honoring Mr. Bennett

Unsung hero award recipients included New Bedford attorney Eva Gates, Lee Scott, Elsie Baer, and June Lakso. Jim Shane, Susan Klein, Rick Lee, and Carole Cohen received Above and Beyond awards.

Employee length of service awards went to: Steve Trieschmann (15 years), Mary Jean Connelly and Dail Bouchard (10 years), and to Marcos Chavez, Sue Collinson, Janis Syslo, Eleanor Morad, Nancy Canha, and Jean Crocker for five years of service.

Closing the evening’s proceedings, MVCS board president Wiet Bacheller thanked the assemblage for “all the yesterdays, the work you do today, and all the tomorrows to come.”

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