Neighbors helping neighbors

Martha's Vineyard Community Services raised over $400,000 in their annual auction on Sunday evening.


The couple whose marriage has hit a road bump. The student who struggles to complete his homework because of general anxiety disorder.  The veteran who still experiences the symptoms of PTSD. The hard worker who can’t find employment because she’s in a wheelchair. 

All of these are examples of more than 6,000 people who seek assistance from Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) every year. Based on these statistics, nearly every year-rounder or seasonal Vineyarder knows someone or is someone who has benefitted from MVCS’s services. 

The Possible Dreams auction, in its 41st year, is a chance for those Islanders to give back to the organization that always has their back. On Sunday evening, people from all across the Island gathered under the white tent to show their gratitude by opening their wallets. Together, donors raised over $400,000 for MVCS.

The elegant Historic Tilton Farm barn serving as the backdrop to this year’s event; fitting for a celebration of the Island’s gems. 

Tables set up with signs representing each of the auction prizes greeted the guests at the entrance to the tent. Surrounded by blue-and-white lanterns, guests chatted about the array of fabulous prizes.

The “Super Dreams” silent online auction closed at 6 pm right before the program started. A collection of 20 special experiences, the highest bid was $4,000 for a VIP Boston Bruins hockey game experience. 

Event chair Liza May opened the live auction portion of the event with gracious remarks. Before the event even started, May said that a record had already been broken: 58 sponsors — an all-time high — had already raised thousands of dollars. Her main message for the evening was, “It’s all about neighbors helping neighbors.” 

Sherry Truhlar entertained the audience with her auctioneer antics. She kept the crowd loose and humble as the prices grew higher and higher by cracking jokes like “you’re going to like this one more than your money.”

The event kicked off with “Fund a Need,” which highlights a particular service, in Sunday night’s case, counseling. To demonstrate the value of MVCS counseling services, superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools Matthew D’Andrea stepped up to share the impact of MVCS on Island students. From in-house therapy to relationship and consent education to bilingual counseling for Portuguese-speaking children, D’Andrea said that MVCS had a positive impact on Island student’s lives. 

Truhlar announced mid-bidding that an anonymous donor would match up to 30 donations of $500. This motivated bidders, and they surpassed the match threshold, set a new record, and raised $61,700 for counseling services alone.

Six core programs at MVCS, about 300 people in attendance, four opportunities to donate, a nearly three-hour event, and two flavors of sangria made for one evening full of charitable spirit.

Outside of this event, these “Dream” experiences are otherwise unattainable and are practically priceless in value. 

Unsurprisingly, the fastest-selling and most contended Dream was a private chocolate making lesson at beloved Chilmark Chocolates. After surpassing a numeric threshold, the prize was increased to two opportunities. Two generous bidders ended up giving $15,000 each, all of which will go to MVCS disability services.

An announcement was delivered by MVCS executive president Robert Egerton. He said that MVCS had “outgrown” its current Oak Bluffs facility and was relocating and building new, larger offices. With the need for more services, space, and employees growing every year “and no sign of it stopping any time soon,” Egerton said that expansion was the logical step forward. 

However, funding the $24 million project is a tall order. With plans to break ground on the new early childhood program center in October, MVCS looked to community organizations to lend a helping hand. Martha’s Vineyard Bank stepped in, and, as president James Anthony revealed for the first time on Sunday, gifted the largest sum of money the bank has given in its 110-year history: $1 million.

“What’s really special is that not everyone lives on the Island full-time,” Truhlar told The Times, “yet they recognize the importance of MVCS and show up to this event. It’s remarkable.”

The Possible Dreams auction concluded with the raffle draw and Golden Ticket winner announcements. May announced the winner of the “Rocking at the Ritz” Golden Ticket party with pleasant surprise, “my husband, Steve May!” Maybe the Mays will use their party to celebrate the end of Liza’s five-year stint serving as Possible Dreams event chair. She said that is has been a “pleasure” and “an honor” to lead this effort. 

“[The MVCS board] is a fantastic group who are truly dedicated to raising enough money.” 

So when does planning start for next year? “Tomorrow,” May said.


  1. In the latter half of the 1990s, the proceeds from The Possible Dreams Auction reached $750,000. In 2019, the proceeds are $400,000. In 1997 dollars that would equal about $250,000. Two things. The proceeds are dropping precipitously and Community Services jettisoned the Visiting Nurse Service, the most widely used of the programs at MVCS. Therefore, the figure 6,000 is no longer accurate. The community’s support for “community services” is waning.

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