The pandemic isn’t stopping the Red Stocking Fund from bringing joy to some 300 children once again on the Island. For 83 years, this entirely volunteer-run nonprofit organization has been bringing joy to children in need on Martha’s Vineyard during the holiday season. The children, ages birth through eighth grade, receive warm clothing, food, basic school supplies, and a book. And for toys, every child’s delight, the Red Stocking Fund relies solely on donations. Co-chairs Sandy Joyce and Susie Wallo say they are looking for specific toys rather than gift cards, with the most popular being Legos; action figures such as Superman, Batman, Spiderman; baby dolls; and toys for babies.
The history of the Red Stocking Fund began quite literally with six stockings. In 1938 Addie Crist, a Vineyard Haven resident, and a few friends, knit six red stockings that they then filled with “something to eat, something to wear, and something to play with,” and distributed them to children on Martha’s Vineyard at Christmas. In subsequent years, the program grew, and was later administered by school nurses in the Island schools. They incorporated as the Red Stocking Fund, Inc., in 1986, with its first official board of directors, many of whom have been active in the organization for many years.
Due to COVID, in-person volunteer opportunities will be limited again this year, but you can make a difference by donating toys or sponsoring a child (or children) through a business, an organization, or with a group of friends.
Sponsors are vital to the fund, as many of these items need to be purchased. When you sponsor a child, her or his identity is kept confidential, but you learn the child’s age, weight, height, shoe size, and three different clothing/footwear items the parent has requested. As a sponsor, you receive a detailed list of a few other pieces of clothing, plus items that they always make sure every child receives, which in addition to a book, puzzle, and basic school supplies includes the child’s wish for a toy or two. The fund makes sure each child gets at least one or two of the toys from their wish list. (The toys should exclude electronics, cellphones, iPads, video games, and the like.)
Everything needs to be wrapped with the child’s number clearly printed on each package, and then delivered to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. Sponsors will receive an email from one of the board members with a drop off date and time as it gets closer.
Joyce and Wallo emphasize that although we are one year out from the worst of the pandemic, many families are still struggling, largely due to exorbitant housing costs, and general cost increases to food, utilities, clothing, and other necessities. If you or someone you know is in need, you can find more information at theredstockingfund.org.
As dedicated co-chairs, Joyce and Wallo say, “We are blessed to be able to continue making the magic happen for the 83rd consecutive year, as the founder of Red Stocking, Addie Crist, set out to do in 1938.”
And with our help, this year’s 300 children can enjoy an abundant holiday.