By Leslie Clapp
It was wonderful to read the “Vineyard dreams” essays submitted by various organizations and individuals in the Dec. 29 issue of the Times. We certainly live in a community that is forward-thinking, creative, and extremely generous. I want to add the accomplishments of Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living, our dreams and expectations for 2017 and beyond, none of which could have been a reality without the support of this unique Island community.
In 2015, the community supported the purchase of a building in Vineyard Haven for the purpose of housing and expanding M.V. Center for Living programs. In 2016, we hammered out agreements and a lease between the county, towns, and the Center for Living for use of space in the building. As of Dec. 15, renovation work has finally begun, starting with a fire suppression system throughout the entire building. Final plans for renovation of the first floor are in hand, and we should be ready to proceed with the rest of the project by the end of January. It is our hope that work will progress without delay, and we will move in no later than the fall of 2017. All the renovation work will be funded by a generous donation from a former Vineyard resident, the late Margaret Yates. But despite the fact that we have yet to move into our new space, in 2016, the Supportive Day Program supported 30 families with loving care, activities, and companionship for their loved ones who are at risk, and respite for their families and caregivers.
We expanded our Memory and Music Café, which meets every Thursday from 10 am to noon at the American Legion Hall. This is a social venue with live music, sing-alongs, conversation, and refreshments. Memory Cafés are a relatively new concept, and many have opened across the commonwealth as part of the growing support for community-based services for people experiencing memory loss or dementia, and their caregivers. An average of 25 clients and caregivers look forward to and attend our Memory and Music Café each week. It is free and open to all. We received grants to support the Café from the Department of Developmental Services and the Cape Cod 5 Cent Savings Bank Charitable Fund.
In January, with a pilot grant from the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard, we will launch new Alzheimer’s Family Support Services, including an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, counseling for families and caregivers, referral to resources for respite and support, and community awareness education. Alzheimer’s Family Support Services will help families dealing with Alzheimer’s or other dementia plan for and navigate the extensive and potentially long-term challenges of caring for their loved ones.
The Medical Taxi Program assisted 210 individuals with 1,073 trips to and from medical appointments on Cape Cod. Our hope is that this program will expand through collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority to find additional ways to provide cost-effective transportation options for Island seniors, both on- and off-Island.
Last but not least, we want to recognize Adam Bresnick and his crew at Island Food Products, as the unsung heroes of the Emergency Food Program. Because of his generosity and willingness to go above and beyond, we expanded our capacity to distribute food to needy families of all ages. Now, twice a month, IFP sends a truck to the Greater Boston Food Bank to pick up orders submitted by our five pantries (four senior centers, and Serving Hands at the Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven). In 2016, IFP trucked nearly 80,000 pounds of food to the Island for us, a 30 percent increase over the previous year. Through the Emergency Food Program, an average of 200 families are assisted every month. This program is funded with grants, donations and the generosity of volunteers like IFP and many others. We look forward to more collaboration in 2017 with other organizations whose mission is to feed Islanders in need.
In his book “No Future Without Forgiveness,” Desmond Tutu wrote, “A person is a person through other persons … I am human because I belong. I participate. I share … A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs to a greater whole, and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.”
My “Vineyard dream” is for a community that is accepting of all its members, regardless of age, ability, or capacity. A community where everyone can feel they belong, can participate, and be respected and valued for their past and continuing contributions to what makes the Vineyard such a special place.
Leslie Clapp is the executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Center for Living.