The Red Stocking Fund, a community nonprofit that has been providing food, toys, school supplies, and assistance to Island families since 1938, is continuing its mission despite the pandemic.
According to fund co-chair Sandy Joyce, what happened to the Red Stocking Fund is similar to what is occurring across the country with thousands of local nonprofits. She said some of the major community events and fundraisers the Red Stocking relies on couldn’t happen this year.
“Suddenly, our nonprofits were not going to happen. The Harley Riders are going to do what they can, but local businesses are hurting, and we knew we probably wouldn’t be able to hold the Chowder Contest,” Joyce said.
She said before the season started, the Red Stocking board was anticipating a higher demand, and a larger number of first-time families applying for support. “There is this conception about the Island that everyone here has a lot of money. We all know that isn’t true, and there are lots of people whose funds are low right now,” Joyce said. She noted that many seasonal workers had a nearly nonexistent season, and those who were able to work could soon be left jobless.
“It is all coming to fruition now, as we have already had many applications that are first-time people we haven’t heard from before,” Joyce said.
Joyce said that with a new website that handles applications for services and donations, she is confident the Red Stocking will make as big an impact as ever, despite setbacks due to COVID.
“The process is now entirely online, from applying to making a donation. In the past it was all paper, but we wanted to make it all as contactless and safe as possible, so we went to an online system,” Joyce said.
For Joyce, she wants the Red Stocking Fund to be a place where families can come to get some warm winter clothes for their children, or a few toys or school supplies.
She said one value of the nonprofit is it exemplifies the tight-knit nature of the Vineyard community, and all the support that is available for those in need. “I hope that the families we serve feel a sense of community, and an awareness that their neighbors support them and are there for them. If those kiddos wake up on Christmas, or Hanukkah, or any other holiday, and there is joy and excitement, that is all we want,” Joyce said.
Joyce gave a shout-out to anyone who donates to the Red Stocking Fund, and highlighted some of the community groups that donate every year, such as a quilting group and groups from Island schools. The event is also supported by Island police departments, which would normally hold their own events to garner donations for the fund, but couldn’t this year due to the pandemic.
“We always like to say there are angels everywhere, and they help us do what we do every year,” Joyce said.
Co-chair Susie Wallo said at first, she and Joyce were having “serious conversations” as to whether the Red Stocking would even be able to go on this year, due to such financial setbacks.
But through a spur-of-the-moment initiative by Kerry Alley, Ron Rappaport, and a number of other community members, Wallo said the Red Stocking Fund was able to raise $100,000 in a matter of weeks.
“We went and talked to Kerry Alley, and he suggested we reach out to Ron Rappaport. Kerry talked to him, we got together, and the rest is history. In a matter of two weeks he was able to raise about $100,000 for Red Stocking, and we just put the pedal to the metal and got the website online,” Wallo said.
She said until that happened, the idea for the website was to garner fundraising, but it took a quick turn into gathering applications for services once the pandemic hit.
Wallo said the Red Stocking has been a small yet powerful community force for so long, people automatically associate the benevolent organization with the holiday season.
“People just kind of know, ‘It’s Red Stocking Fund time again,’ and they send out checks and other donations. But when Ronald and Kerry decided to do this magnificent thing for us, we had never seen anything like it,” Wallo said. “This type of tremendous community outpouring.”
“Our goal is that if the book, the crayons, the softball, the football, changes one kid’s life, even one, out of potentially 400 this year, then we have absolutely been a huge success,” she said.
Visit the Red Stocking Fund website to make a donation, or to apply for support this holiday season.