Union Chapel and Island Food Pantry launch challenge food gift

The Island Food Pantry is serving about 700 families, an increase of 250 over the past month.

The Island Food Pantry of Martha’s Vineyard has received a $5,000 donation from Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, and is launching a Challenge Food Gift in recognition of two former trustees, Rev. Dr. John David Schule and Mildred (Millie) Dowdell Henderson, who died in mid-March 2020. According to a press release, the gift is intended to encourage other Vineyard organizations and families to honor the lives of these individuals who made significant contributions to the quality of life on the  Island, and who often spoke of the importance of addressing adversity in the lives of others. 

Rev. Schule served as long-time pastor of the Federated Church in Edgartown, and was one of the founders and former president of Martha’s Vineyard Hospice. He suffered an 11-year illness from a rare form of cancer that contributed to his death. Millie Henderson was a librarian and teacher who was featured in a 2015 oral history Vineyard Voices vignette produced by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. She was deeply involved in the philanthropic efforts of The Cottagers Inc., and was recognized as one of the leaders of the African American society in Oak Bluffs.   

In launching the Challenge Food Gift, Richard Taylor, president of Union Chapel, states in the release: “John and Millie would strongly encourage generosity, kindness and even sacrifice during this time of expanded food insecurity on the Island. It is our hope that our $5,000 contribution will grow to $10,000 to assist Margaret and her team in helping those in need. We encourage all to contribute whatever they can to help us reach our goal. “

Persons wishing to honor the memory of these individuals may make contributions to the Island Food Pantry via the Pantry’s donation website: islandfoodpantry.org. Donations should be marked as part of the “Union Chapel” Schule/Henderson Challenge Food Gift” in the memo line of the check or on-line transaction, the release says.

Margaret Hannemann, president of the Island Food Pantry Board, acknowledged that the Pantry’s commitment to serving vulnerable families on Martha’s Vineyard is an important part of the philanthropic traditions established by John Schule and Millie Henderson. 

“We deeply appreciate this gift as a symbol of the extensive collaboration among the Vineyard’s multiple religious, society, business, and service organizations,” Hannenmann says in the release. “Each of us has an important part to play in creating a safety net for our neighbors who face uncertainty and hardship during these difficult days.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 virus, the Island Food Pantry has faced a rapid and accelerating growth in families requesting food assistance. In the past month, the Pantry helped stock the shelves of more than 700 Island families, an increase of nearly 250 newly registered families. In response to this change, the amount of food purchased by the Pantry has grown from 28,000 pounds to 56,000 pounds per month. The Pantry receives no government assistance, according to the press release, and is dependent solely upon private gifts and grants. Working in collaboration with dozens of other Island organizations, churches, businesses, and individuals, the Island Food Pantry works to address hunger on the Island, and to provide a dependable source of nutritious food all year long.

For more information, contact Kayte Morris, executive director of the Island Food Pantry, at kayte@islandfoodpantry.org.