Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living greets the season

Leslie Clapp, the Center's executive director, serves up a piece of the Welcome to the Island cake. — Photo by Jack Shea

Several dozen Island residents gathered with Center for Living caregivers at the organization’s second annual Welcome to the Island dinner on Friday, June 24, at the Portuguese-American Club in Oak Bluffs. The crowd was down from last year’s 150 attendees, but spirits were high among staff, clients, and volunteers who whipped up an Italian dinner featuring seven different pasta dishes and a cascade of salads, sides, and desserts.

Formerly known as the Council on Aging, the Center for Living provides an array of services, including a schedule of meals, activities, and helping hands for the growing number of seniors on the Island. The peripatetic Leslie Stark and his wife, Myra, are grateful for the center. “We use the services,” he said. “They do a lot, like providing transportation to medical care on the Cape. That’s a $65 cab ride. The Center makes access for medical care possible for seniors.”

The Center staff and volunteers do their work without a real home. Staffer Rosie Roberts was clear about the Center’s need. “We need a home,” she said, after noticing a reporter’s notebook and camera. “Find us a home.”

Turns out that the Center vagabonds who run the Supportive Day Program work out of the Edgartown Council on Aging on Mondays and Wednesdays and the Tisbury Council on Aging on Tuesdays and Fridays. “We pack everything up — medical gear and activities materials — several times a week in our cars,” staffer Irma Bodden explained.

Betty Burton of Vineyard Haven is a big fan. Ms. Burton administers the Serving Hands food program on the Island, and the Center helps connect her with the food. “Leslie (Clapp, executive director), provides a truckload of food every month through the Greater Boston Food bank,” she said.

There was food aplenty Friday night. Diane Jetmund, president of the Center, directed traffic in the kitchen and at the buffet line, reminding guests not to miss the silent auction table, packed with affordable cool stuff, including signed copies of books by husband-and-wife Pulitzer Prize winners Geraldine Brooks and Tony Horwitz, and some au courant gear from the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Board member June Manning and her sister, Jyl, recruited a group of young up-Islanders as servers and cleanup crew for the dinner.

Jack Shea is a freelance writer who lives in Vineyard Haven.