The colder months mean busier times for the Vineyard Committee on Hunger, as volunteers work to support the Island’s needy. Leading this endeavor is the organization’s president, Alicia Nicholson.
According to the committee’s website, “one in 10 Vineyard families needs help to survive the winter season.” To help Vineyarders in need, the committee engages in several giving activities. The most recent event happened at the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven on Friday: the Family to Family program and the monthly Serving Hands groceries giveaway. Family to Family provides holiday meal ingredients to Islander families in need around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.
“It was good,” Nicholson said about the event on Friday. “We passed [just over] 200 bags that consisted of everything for a family to make a Thanksgiving meal, and also gave out an option of a turkey or a chicken.”
Food was also provided by other organizations, such as meat from the Greater Boston Food Bank, alongside “dry goods and veggies” from Island Grown Initiative (IGI) and other Island farms. “A big thanks to Mike Cisco and his team for delivering all of the food products … from the Greater Boston Food Bank,” Nicholson said.
A challenge that arose for the nonprofit’s Family to Family program was the increasing cost of food. Running the program can cost around $10,000 per operational month.
“It is more difficult this year. In the past, it used to cost us $45 per family. With the rising costs, it’s closer to about $65 per family … maybe even $70,” Nicholson said. “For the Family to Family, we rely 100 percent on donations, money from the community, to fund this distribution.”
A program that did not feel the same impact, despite relying on donations, is Serving Hands. Nicholson said most of the food comes from the Greater Boston Food Bank.
The next Family to Family event, with Serving Hands, will take place on Friday, Dec. 16, at the First Baptist Church. Sign-ins will take place at Saint Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven.
For those who are unable to come to the churches, a delivery system is also available. Collectively, both programs require packing around 600 bags of food, according to Nicholson.
Another event that supports these programs is Shop to Share, where “participating Tisbury businesses will donate 10 percent of their sales” on Sunday, Dec. 4, to the committee.
“We’re still talking about that. But definitely, anyone who shops in Vineyard Haven that day, it helps us out a lot,” Nicholson said. “I think in the past we’ve raised around $10,000 to $12,000.”
Nicholson said the committee is always looking for more volunteers to help, particularly delivery drivers and cleaners.
“We’re a pretty small group. The holidays bring out more people to help volunteer, much needed, and we would not be able to get it done without it,” Nicholson said. “But, in general, we can always use more volunteers.”
Anyone who would like to contribute to this program can send a check to Vineyard Committee on Hunger, P.O. Box 4685, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, with “Family to Family” in the memo line.