Mike Donaroma isn’t just an Edgartown selectman and a landscaping whiz; he wants to help the Island community support those who are in need, especially during the holiday season.
As a town official, Donaroma said he is exposed to the many issues related to poverty on Martha’s Vineyard. Homelessness, hunger, absent parents: There are many things Donaroma says contribute to the difficulties faced by some year-rounders. The issue isn’t unique on-Island, although scarce housing and a high cost of living do play a part.
But Donaroma said there is one characteristic that is unique to our tiny Island community — “everyone wants to help.”
Donaroma is the chair of the Boys and Girls Club fundraising committee, which has organized and carried out multiple major fundraisers like the Teddy Bear Suite, the Pink Squid Yacht Club fishing tournament, and the children’s benefit golf tournament.
These events make possible the benevolent support system that the Boys and Girls Club provides to children.
Donaroma himself grew up in the Boys and Girls Club. His father left when he was 2 years old, leaving his family on their own. He started cleaning summer houses with his mother and grandmother, and would spend a lot of his time afterschool at the club.
Now Donaroma works with the club to fundraise, and encourages folks to support the valuable Island resource.
During the holidays, Donaroma is busy decorating all of Edgartown with lights, bows, Christmas trees, and other holiday plantings. He does the floral decorations for the Daniel Fisher House, the Old Whaling Church, Cannonball Park, and the Mini Park, but also finds time to help organize fundraisers.
This year, Donaroma says, more than 2,000 people attended the Evening of Enchantment at Donaroma’s nursery in Edgartown. There were boxes at the event where visitors could donate money to the Boys and Girls Club to support its holiday fundraising efforts.
For some people on Martha’s Vineyard, the focus of the holiday season is having access to food, shelter, and warm clothes, instead of what to put under the tree.
“Some kids are left at home while their parents are working, or their parents are in jail, or they are orphans,” Donaroma said. “I’ve seen kids at the club with no shoes on their feet, or kids with no winter jackets.”
Donaroma said the Vineyard is a special place, because everyone knows each other and wants to lend a helping hand. “We are so fortunate that we have people on this Island who are generous and giving,” Donaroma said. “It’s a very close community.”
For the fourth-generation Islander, the Boys and Girls Club was the saving grace of his childhood. “That place kept me out of jail, I can tell you that for certain,” he said.
The club’s CEO, Jessie Damroth, said she can’t say enough good things about Donaroma and all he has done for the club. “Mike is such an amazing force, with a lot of experience and connections,” Damroth said.
Donaroma worked with Damroth this past year to change the entire fundraising model of the club from an event-centered model to a more multipronged approach. Damroth said Donaroma is dedicated to achieving the club’s overall fundraising goal for this year of $3 million, and isn’t afraid to pick up the phone and ask people to donate. “Mike really spearheaded this multipronged approach,” Damroth said. “He knows what is important to the Island, but is also great with planning and organizing events.”
Damroth said Donaroma kicked off this year’s fundraising efforts with a $10,000 commitment to the club, and also used his landscaping and floral design knowhow to spruce up the entrance area.
“We always used to have a dirt walkway leading to the front door, and now we have a beautiful brick walkway,” Damroth said. “He even planted new grass, trees, and an irrigation system so our staff doesn’t need to remember to water the garden. These are all things we wouldn’t be able to afford without his help.
“He really does go above and beyond all expectations. He knows how important the club’s efforts are to the community.”