Island-grown dreams bear fruit for Community Services

The 36th Annual Art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction on July 27 will benefit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

Cambridge comedian and auctioneer Jimmy Tingle helped get the most out of each auctioned item at 2013's Possible Dreams auction. — File Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Possible Dreams Auction to benefit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) has changed a lot in recent years. The date, the venue, the auctioneer, even the name of the event — now the Art Buchwald Possible Dreams Auction, in honor of the longtime auctioneer who died in 2007 — have been reworked. That’s not to say different is bad. The team behind the highly anticipated auction is confident that the new direction leads towards a promising future.

For the second year in a row, the Possible Dreams auction will be held on a Sunday, July 27, at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Katama, featuring auctioneer and comedian Jimmy Tingle. Last year, this proved a winning combination, with the live auction raising approximately $213,000, and the event as a whole grossing about $450,000 between admissions, sponsorships, dinner, the live and silent auctions, and donations.

One of last year’s changes was moving the event from a Monday to a Sunday evening, in hopes of improving attendance by volunteers, MVCS staff, and weekend visitors. The auction drew a crowd of 450. The date of the event has also moved up from its traditional slot, the first week in August. On choosing this year’s date, auction co-chairman Liza May said, “This was the one weekend we found that there weren’t as many events piggybacked upon each other.”

Another recent change in venue moved the auction from its home of four years in Ocean Park to the Winnetu. “The Winnetu has been wonderful, The FARM Institute has been a huge donor of parking spaces. It’s just an idyllic spot down by the beach,” said Nell Coogan, director of development and community relations at MVCS.

Then of course, there is the return of funnyman Jimmy Tingle. “I was blown away that they would think of me in the vein of [the late] Art Buchwald, because I was a huge fan,” said Mr. Tingle. The Buchwald family was so pleased with Mr. Tingle’s performance last year that they sent him one of Mr. Buchwald’s famed auction hats, which Mr. Tingle hinted might make an appearance on Sunday.

“Anytime you’re doing something new, you’ve got to do your homework,” Mr. Tingle said, admitting he was a bit nervous the first time around. No stranger to the Vineyard, Mr. Tingle performed standup at The Hot Tin Roof and the Wintertide in the 1980s. He’s also performed at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, and shown his film “Jimmy Tingle’s American Dream” at the M.V. Film Center. “I’d done auction work in the past, and with Possible Dreams, the community is so into it and the cause is so great that people open their hearts and wallets a little more.”

The MVCS board acknowledges that Mr. Tingle’s humor has been a huge asset for the new direction they want to take Possible Dreams. “One of the biggest things we’re trying to do is add a little bit more levity,” Mr. Tingle continued. “It’s not just an auction for a serious cause, but it’s also about having fun and being entertained.” This year, Guinevere Cramer of Point B Realty will assist Mr. Tingle on stage to add a little local color.

Up for auction

The dynamics of the auction have changed slightly as well. Last year, a silent auction was added to the live auction to increase participation by businesses and bidders with lower budgets. “They like the idea that they can give back to their community too, on a smaller scale,” Ms. May said. This year, a raffle offers a third opportunity to win “dreams.”

The 26 live auction items include big ticket getaways such as a trip to Greece, and the ever-popular gastronomical vacation in Italy, as well as a special surprise auction item. “It’s nice to see more Island-grown dreams in the mix,” said Ms. Coogan. This year, locally based dreams include a day of fishing, foraging, and cooking with Chris Fischer and Jennifer Clark, a poker tournament hosted by World Series of Poker finalist Jesse Sylvia, and a jam session with Jim Belushi at Alex’s Place.

The silent auction includes 55 items, such as sailing and lighthouse tours hosted by the M.V. Museum, a staycation at the Vineyard Square Hotel with gift cards to Edgartown restaurants, artwork, fitness packages, and practical items such as gas and propane.

Raffle tickets can win guests dinner for two at The Terrace and an overnight at The Charlotte Inn, a set of Stefanie Wolf jewelry, fishing trips, a home and garden package, gift cards, and more. Tickets are one for $10, or three for $25.

“There’s going to be something for everyone, whether it’s coming to see a great comedian, or to bid on the live auction or silent or raffle,” said Ms. May. “We want to include as many people as we can whether they live here full time, part time, or are just visiting.”

Community driven goals

“I’ve been blown away with the generosity on this Island,” said MVCS board member Sandy Pimentel. “I think they recognize the importance of Community Services.” All proceeds from the event will benefit Community Services, and projects within its programs, which include CONNECT to End Violence, Disability Services, Early Childhood Programs and The MV Family Center, The Island Counseling Center, and The Thrift Shop, also known as Chicken Alley. “This event fills in the bottom line of what we do,” said Ms. Coogan. “It’s a huge one for us.”

With this year’s profits, the MVCS team hopes to cover rent for the new Family Center in Vineyard Haven, and expand the disability services program. “One of our biggest initiatives is to start a crisis stabilization unit on the Island,” said Ms. Coogan. The unit would give people in a state of crisis an “extra step” between the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Emergency Room, and an inpatient situation off-Island.

For Mr. Tingle, these positive and tangible goals are what makes the Possible Dreams auction special. He believes that Art Buchwald felt the same way. “He knew there were a lot of celebrities here, but he also lived here,” Mr. Tingle said. “He knew what it was like in the winter, and he knew the regular people who were making the Island work.”

Likely, the astute Mr. Buchwald also knew the challenges of a changing Island. “Change is always difficult, if you live on the Island you know that,” said Ms. Pimentel. “We’ve changed everything about the auction. But people love change once it happens.”

Possible Dreams auction, Sunday, July 27, 4–7 pm, Winnetu Oceanside Resort, Edgartown. Doors open at 3:45 pm. $25. 7:30 pm: Dinner at Lure Grill, $225 person. For more information, call 508-693-7900, ext. 229, or visit To volunteer, call 617-834-3704.