On Friday, the all-volunteer Vineyard Committee on Hunger (VCOH) held its yearly Family2Family Thanksgiving program. Meals were provided for 150 families in need.
This year, the non-profit committee was also supported by a $5,000 dollar check, raised and donated by Island photographer Michael Blanchard.
Starting at 9:30 am, over two dozen volunteer workers helped VCOH arrange 450 bags of food in front of the First Baptist Church of Vineyard Haven. Each family received three bags; the bags themselves were provided by Cape Cod 5 bank.
A wide range of Thanksgiving foods were represented courtesy of local and regional organizations, with holiday staples as well as eggs, cider and more.
“The potatoes, carrots and squash all come from [Island Grown Initiative],” said VCOH president Alicia Nicholson. “The turkeys, apples, stuffing, onions and cranberry sauce…we order from Reliable [Market]. And the rest of the other stuff is…from the Greater Boston Food Bank.”
Though many families pick up outside the church, the program also delivers. Seventy to 80 deliveries were expected as of Friday morning. “It always starts at 70 and then I get phone calls, and it’s like ‘Can I get a delivery now too?”” said Nicholson.
Nicholson, who prepares for the Thanksgiving event a couple months in advance, noted a greater need for deliveries since the COVID-19 pandemic. “Pre-COVID, we delivered to about 20 to 25 families in the community, and when COVID hit, we went up to a hundred. People just couldn’t get to us.”
This Thanksgiving season, the committee itself will be thankful for the kindness of others, as it was presented on Friday morning with a $5,000 check from photographer Michael Blanchard, of Crossroads Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Since 2016, Blanchard has sold photography calendars to benefit a worthy cause on-Island.
And Blanchard notes that he was also helped during his fundraising effort by another on-Island organization.
“We sold close to 2,500 calendars,” said Blanchard. “But, what was unique this year was…the Daybreak program.”
The Daybreak Clubhouse, a Martha’s Vineyard Community Services program coordinated by Nicholson, offers opportunities in employment, health, wellness, education and more for adults with mental illness. Daybreak assists Family2Family each year, as well as Serving Hands, VCOH’s similar monthly program. And this year, Daybreak aided Blanchard in packing his calendars as well.
“We had a thousand calendars that had to get shipped out, and it takes me days [without help],” said Blanchard.
Oak Bluffs resident Ally Johnson has been volunteering at Family2Family and Serving Hands since 2018, and also volunteers at the Oak Bluffs food pantry. “I enjoy helping out people,” said Johnson on Friday. “Loading up the cars, and making sure they have what they need.”
Family2Family is also held in December in anticipation of Christmas, and around Easter in April.
The Vineyard Committee on Hunger accepts donations at hungercommittee.org.