The all-volunteer Vineyard Committee Against Hunger (VCOH) held its annual Family2Family Thanksgiving program on Friday. Meals were provided to 150 families in need.
This year, the non-profit committee was also supported by a $5,000 check raised and donated by island photographer Michael Blanchard.
Starting at 9:30 a.m., more than two dozen volunteers helped VCOH prepare 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, featuring 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 comes… from the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Although many families pick them up outside the church, the program is also effective. Seventy to 80 deliveries were expected Friday morning. “It always starts at 70, and then I get phone calls and I’m like, ‘Can I get it delivered now too?’ “Nicholson said.
Nicholson, who prepares for the Thanksgiving event a few months in advance, has noted a greater need for deliveries since the COVID-19 pandemic. “Before COVID, we delivered to about 20 to 25 families in the community, and when COVID hit, we increased to around 100. People just couldn’t reach us.
This Thanksgiving season, the committee itself will be grateful for the kindness of others, as it received a check Friday morning for $5,000 from photographer Michael Blanchard, of Crossroads Gallery in Oak Bluffs. Since 2016, Blanchard has sold photographic calendars to benefit a good cause on the Island.
And Blanchard points out that he was also helped with his fundraising by another Island organization.
“We sold almost 2,500 calendars,” Blanchard said. “But what was unique this year was…the Daybreak program.”
The Daybreak Clubhouse, a Martha’s Vineyard community service program coordinated by Nicholson, provides opportunities for employment, health, wellness, education and more to adults suffering from mental illness. Daybreak assists Family2Family each year, as well as Serving Hands, VCOH’s similar monthly program. And this year, Daybreak also helped Blanchard prepare his calendars.
“We had a thousand calendars to ship, and it takes me days (without help),” Blanchard said.
Oak Bluffs resident Ally Johnson has volunteered at Family2Family and Serving Hands since 2018, and also volunteers at the Oak Bluffs Food Pantry. “I like helping people,” Johnson said Friday. “Loading the cars and making sure they have what they need.”
Family2Family also takes place in December in the lead up to Christmas and around Easter in April.
The Vineyard Committee on Hunger is accepting donations at hungercommittee.org.