Since 1938, the Red Stocking Fund has provided Island children in need with gifts of new clothes and toys for the holiday season. This year, like all years, the wish lists of hundreds of children line the walls of the basement of St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven. Each list is unnamed, numbered and marked with the age and gender of the child along with a few of their interests provided by parents.
But that is about the only thing that is normal this year.
In September, Red Stocking organizers worried they wouldn’t have enough money to cover costs. They were looking at a $40,000 deficit due to the loss of their key annual fundraisers: the Big Chili Contest, the Great Chowder Contest and the Vineyard Harley Riders annual drive.
Then thanks to a surprise $100,000 fund set up by Island benefactors in the name of Kerry Alley, Red Stocking’s longtime co-chairman who is now retired, the program was able to continue.
“In September we were like, I don’t think we have enough money, we can’t do it. All of that changed really quickly,” said co-chairman Susie Wallo in an interview last week.
With funding covered for this year, the next hurdle was administering the program during a pandemic. Normally applications are printed and can be picked up at Island schools, banks and an array of agencies such as Island Healthcare Access and Community Services.
Edgartown police collected presents for Red Stocking in a stuff-a-bus event this past weekend during Christmas in Edgartown.
— Courtesy Edgartown Police Department.
“We knew that we had to develop some kind of paperless system for this year,” co-chairman Sandy Joyce said.
As a result, a new website was launched, with applications available in Portuguese and English.
“It came together fast and furious,” Ms. Wallo said. “It was a gargantuan effort, a lot of workarounds . . . but we got it done.”
In the end the organization saw even more applications this year, including many more first-time applicants, Ms. Joyce said.
Ordinarily around this time in December, the basement of St. Augustine’s would be filled with Red Stocking volunteers, sorting and wrapping presents. But due to gathering restrictions, the church basement is too small to accommodate volunteers. So there will be no wrapping this year.
“None of that can happen this year and that’s been hard for all of us,” Ms. Wallo said.
“It’s really hard,” Ms. Joyce agreed. “People understand, but it’s hard because [when volunteers gather to wrap the gifts] it’s literally like Santa’s workshop . The energy and magic it creates when we’re all there together, we are really, really missing that.”
And so it has been up to Ms. Joyce and Ms. Wallo along with Red Stocking Fund board members to complete the herculean task of cataloging all the donated gifts, picking ones that fit each child, and organizing pickup times for the hundreds of families who will receive the gifts.
But while Red Stocking can’t have volunteers in the basement this year, Islanders have been helping out by creating specific gift wishes, such as knitting and making quilts. Others are collecting gifts from donation boxes at various spots around the Island.
“People want to help, so Sandy and I keep going through our books finding things for people to get,” Ms. Wallo said.
“Everybody seems to find a way to give or help,” Ms. Joyce said. “There are angles everywhere, and boy have they come out of the woodwork this year.”
To make a donation, visit the Red Stocking Fund website (theredstockingfund.org) or mail checks to: The Red Stocking Fund, P.O. Box 600, Edgartown, MA 02539.