Everyone has heard about it.
The Island is filled with music from local singer-songwriters and jazz artists appearing in community settings all year to big name jazz, pop, and folk names performing in summertime. The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society brings world-class performers to its popular summer festivals. Our large Island Community Chorus performs several concerts through the year. The Yard offers visiting professional dancers a summer home for creativity and performance.
There are hundreds of acres of open conservation lands, miles of walking trails, beautiful beaches and safe harbors, an Audubon wildlife sanctuary, a small world-class arboretum, all offering a wealth of recreation of many kinds and a chance to appreciate God’s creation up close.
And there is much to nurture the spirit here. We have more than two dozen churches including mainstream Protestant faiths, Catholic parishes, a Jewish temple, a Buddhist center,
a Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall, and a good number of smaller, charismatic and community-based congregations. Members of our growing Brazilian population have established thriving houses of worship.
Our recently renovated and updated hospital has a harbor view and offers high quality health care and emergency services thanks to dedicated medical staff, visiting specialists, and its affiliation with Partners HealthCare and Massachusetts General Hospital. The community has many holistic health and wellness practitioners as well.
Every Christmas season for decades Islanders have given money, toys, clothing, and volunteer time to bring joy to needy children through the Red Stocking Fund. All winter, church members around the Island cook hearty dinners, serving up food and fellowship every night of the week. And a church-based program offers shelter to homeless neighbors all winter.
Presidents come to golf and sail and snatch a few days with their families out of the public eye. Celebrities appear at farmer’s markets and coffee shops behind dark glasses; some even live here. Multi-million dollar architect-designed homes sprawl in secluded meadows and stand sentry on private shorelines.
Not cheap, but efficient and safe, the Steamship Authority known as our lifeline for good reason carries passengers, cars, trucks, and freight to and from the Island. Smaller ferry companies travel to and from the Cape and New Bedford in the summer season.
We have two newly renovated theaters and the state-of-the- art M.V. Film Center all showing movies from first runs to documentaries and classics. Theater programs offer both community and professional drama.
With a growing emphasis on the health and economic benefits of “eating local,” and a resurgence of larger and small-scale family farms, fresh Island produce, meat, and poultry, eggs and dairy products are widely available.
Fitness options are many, from our large, well-appointed YMCA to private health clubs and an ice arena.
Neighbors may and will argue bitterly over politics, school regulations, zoning laws, and what supermarket is best, but when push comes to shove we are all in this Vineyard lifeboat and we stick together. And when serious trouble comes to call, Islanders step up, dig deep, reach out.
When a family endures traumatic loss, the community is there. When a teenager dies in a car crash, a fireman perishes in a blaze, a fisherman drowns in a freak accident, a young man succumbs to an overdose, a popular businessman is tragically shot while travelling, neighbors and strangers alike pack the memorial services, grieving with and supporting the bereaved with their caring.
The Vineyard may be our little piece of paradise but it does not come cheap or easy. Everything from real estate to food, clothing, and gasoline costs more than mainland prices. Rentals are scarce and expensive; housing programs work hard to find decent homes for year ’round families and individuals.
Many struggle with low incomes and high costs of living.
There is poverty, unemployment, and homelessness.
Thankfully, violent and extreme crime levels are low. But, as is true anywhere, there is domestic abuse, mental health issues, alcoholism, and a growing substance addiction problem. We are not exempt, and some say the isolation and economic challenges here add to these issues. Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, 12-step programs, private counselors, churches, and caregivers all are hard at work to keep our neighbors safe and sober, nourished, housed and healthy. There is always work to be done!