Two-thirds of the way through my interview with Mike Adell about volunteering on the Island, I thought to myself, “My word, there’s only so much time in a day, how does he fit all this in?”
In Adell’s unassuming way, he just said, “You make time, you figure it out.”
Here on the Island, Adell, who lives in West Tisbury, has been making time — and lots of it — for Vineyard Village at Home, SCORE, the Food Pantry, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Hospice of Martha’s VIneyard, among others. Adell, who is 81, has slowed down somewhat since being diagnosed with a slight medical problem a couple of months ago, but fully anticipates getting back to his full volunteering schedule in the near future.
Adell grew up in the Bronx, went to high school in Texas, and got his M.B.A. from the University of Michigan. Over his career he held a series of sales and marketing jobs at Kodak, Apple, and U.S. Robotics. By the late ’90s he ventured out and began his own consulting business, and also explored volunteering opportunities in his hometown of Chicago.
Adell became a mediator, trained in conflict resolution by the Chicago Bar Association and he volunteered his services in a variety of disputes. He also became involved with the Big Brother Big Sister program in Chicago, and when he and his wife decided to move to the Vineyard in 2010, one of the first things he did was sponsor a child with Big Brothers Big Sisters on the Island. He also continued his work volunteering as a mediator on the Island, resolving disputes between such parties as tenants and landlords, and customers and stores.
For eight years now, Adell has worked as a transportation volunteer for Vineyard Village at Home. When he first became involved, he was volunteering around four days a week, but for the past few months, he’s scaled back to about about 1½ days a week.
“Vineyard Village allows seniors to live at home. There are about 40 drivers who volunteer their time and cars and let people who can’t drive get out of the house,” Adell said.
“We take people to doctor’s appointment, on errands, sometimes they just want to drive around the Island. I even helped take down some screens one time.”
With Adell’s business background, he found a natural fit with Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). SCORE began back in the Lyndon Johnson administration, and Adell refers to it as “your tax dollars at work.” It’s a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses and nonprofit organizations start, grow, and succeed.
“I got involved with SCORE about eight years ago,” Adell said. “If you have an idea for starting a nonprofit or a small business, or if you want to sell your business — if you have an idea and you don’t know how to get there, come to us and we can help.”
The Vineyard chapter of SCORE is part of a network of 320 other SCORE organizations across the country; they draw on that expertise to solve problems. “If you want to make hand puppets,” Adell said, “there’s someone out there in our national database who can help.”
Four years ago Adell took over the role of managing SCORE on Martha’s Vineyard. “I was putting in about 20 hours a week for quite awhile,” said Adell, “but recently I stepped aside as manager — someone else is running the operation now; I’m more concerned with consulting with people.”
Adell is particularly proud of Perfect Pitch, a project SCORE did in conjunction with the Martha’s VIneyard Chamber of Commerce. The idea behind Perfect Pitch is that Island entrepreneurs pitch their new business ideas to judges and compete for money. Then members of SCORE help the winning contestants bring their ideas to fruition.
Adell has also found time to do volunteer work for the Island Food Pantry at the Christ United Methodist Church in Vineyard Haven. The goal of the Food Pantry is to prevent hunger on Martha’s Vineyard. “It’s such a great organization,” Adell said. “I volunteered there picking up boxes and stacking them for about a day a week for three years; I can’t wait to get back. Margaret Hanneman [who runs the pantry] does such an amazing job.”
As we were wrapping up our interview, Mike and I were talking about a mutual friend who is a nurse, when Adell said, “Oh, that reminds me, I also volunteered for Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard for three or four years. There was something very gratifying about just being there with people.”
I asked Mike where his drive for helping people came from. He thought about it for a while, and said, “You know, I guess my parents were always advocates for the underclass or underprivileged in some form or fashion. I can’t remember ever hearing my mom or dad say a harsh word about any group of people, ever. I think it’s as simple as that. It made me more accepting and understanding.
“I also look at things in the big picture, and sometimes think what’s our world becoming. I can’t change our political structure, but I can change things locally — and it’s more fulfilling.”
Here’s how you can help
To be considered for volunteering or to donate to Hospice of MV, call Tom Hallihan at 508-693-0189.
To make food donations or to help with distribution at the Food Pantry, call Margaret Hanneman at 617-899-4747.
Vineyard Village at Home is always looking for volunteer drivers. Call Polly Brown at 508-524-3986.
SCORE is always looking for volunteer mentor/counsellors to assist Island small businesses and nonprofits. Contact Tom Soldini at 913-706-7237.
To volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters, call 508-771-5150.