Kerry Alley ‘makes it happen’

Island surprises Red Stocking Fund stalwart with a new fund named in his honor.

Susie Wallo (above left) stands with Kerry and Pat Alley (far right) during their surprise Zoom call. — Kate Feiffer

A surprise Zoom call honoring Kerry Alley for his endless dedication to the community was filled with tears of joy and gratitude from friends and family.

Ron Rappaport kicked off the call by saying that about a month ago, Alley called him and said that the Red Stocking Fund, which provides food, clothing, and toys for families in need during the holiday season, was in a $40,000 shortfall.

The volunteer organization was struggling because three of its major funding sources, the Red Stocking Harley Ride, the Big Chili Contest, and the annual Great Chowder Contest, couldn’t happen because of COVID-19.

Alley was co-director of the Red Stocking Fund for many years, and was co-chairman of the Red Stocking Fund board.

Rappaport said he worked with Alley to reach out and request support from a number of Islanders, with the ambition of covering not only this year’s shortfall, but preparing for whatever next year brings.

“We said let’s go for the $100,000, and see if we can cover both the needs for this year — and the needs for this year are going to be greater — who knows what is going to happen next year,” Rappaport said. “Let’s give the organization a head start in dealing with these issues.”

Rappaport said that after extensive involvement from a number of different folks, the fund has surpassed the $100,000 threshold, and will be named in Kerry’s honor. 

“Thanks to a lot of people, this has been a team effort,” Rappaport said. “The fund will be named in your honor. You are the ultimate nameless, selfless, civic volunteer, and thank you.”

Rappaport’s brother, Alan, checked to make sure that Alley was still on the call, and joked that “he is the only person I know who might get miffed at the notion of being honored. As soon as he heard that, he may just hang up and leave.”

Alan said this fund is a perfect way to thank Alley for all he and his family have done for the community, and for the Red Stocking Fund. 

“The Red Stocking Fund is a perfect example because it is selfless, voluntary, and is a way to help those in need of a hand,” Alan said.

Tisbury School teacher Anne Williamson, where Alley served as director of guidance from 1969 until his retirement in 1994, said the first words she heard from Alley after moving to the Vineyard were, ‘How can I help you?’

“I love this Island, and I don’t know if I would have had the same foundation if I hadn’t met the Alleys to show me the beauty of why we live here,” Williamson said. 

Williamson also noted Alley’s involvement in the Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard, where he serves as the co-chair of the scholarship committee, and has been a board member since 2003.

“Kerry would get to know the families of the children you teach. He would unfold the most brilliant ideas to connect community members and help people, but he never says it’s his idea,” Williamson said. “He kind of floats it, and then it happens.”

Williamson said Alley’s constant mission to find ways of helping people fascinates her, and his followthrough has solidified him as a staunch and reliable community leader. “If you hear of a new Land Bank property and you are curious, you go and hike it. If you are curious about how to help a student, you go to the high school and make it happen,” Williamson said. 

Emily Bramhall, executive director for the Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard, said Alley “truly is the spirit of the organization.”

Co-chair of the Red Stocking Fund board Sandy Joyce said she “always has a lot of tears” when speaking of the selfless nature of Alley and his wife, Pat Alley.

“Maybe a month ago now, we were really worried about what was going to happen to the Red Stocking this year,” Joyce said. “Me and Susie [Wallo] said to each other, ‘We have to go to sit on the back deck at the Alleys.’ Just like Anne said,, he was full of ideas. And that is what brought us to this day.”

Holding back tears, Joyce acknowledged the “whirlwind of community generosity” for the Red Stocking Fund on Martha’s Vineyard. 

She stressed that this fund is an honor for Kerry, but “it should really be an honor for Kerry and Pat.”

Kerry and Pat’s granddaughter, Alley Furlong, also made a touching speech, thanking them for all they have done for her and the Vineyard. “I can remember, from a very young age, having a sense of the world through you both,” Furlong said. “I can remember all the different organizations you are a part of, and they have shaped my perspective on the world. I want to say we love you, and thank you for instilling in us a sense of giving, and more importantly a sense of community.”

At the end of the call, after many friends and family members voiced their love and appreciation for the couple, Kerry Alley thanked everyone in attendance, and said, “Well, this is certainly overwhelming. I am very grateful to Ronald that you picked up the ball. You are a mover and a shaker, and you shook the money. So it will happen, thanks to you and everyone else.“