In a time when many are hunkered down at home, avoiding the public for each other’s benefit, there are few who brave risk and exposure every day to serve our communities–there are many of our residents, friends, and neighbors running into the fire, not away from it. By employing innovation and creativity, exhibiting strong leadership, adaptability, and relentless determination, these local heroes are stepping up to keep our communities afloat during this pandemic.
As a visual storyteller, my photographs have long served to communicate, educate, and inspire. With the pandemic gripping our world, I wanted to show the faces of the men and women who are working tirelessly to serve our community. I have begun showcasing these Everyday Heroes, the resilient men, and women serving our community in crisis. I am compelled to capture them in their selfless moments of service, to share their stories and highlight their efforts, and to give a voice to these ‘Faces from the Front Line.’
From the delivery drivers hauling supplies to Martha’s Vineyard, our postal workers ensuring safe deliveries, the grocery store employees stocking the shelves, the school cafeteria workers and pantry volunteers providing meals for our vulnerable families, there is an overwhelming number of people who are serving as critical lifelines to our community. Our collective health and well-being is dependent on the actions of these brave individuals who have been deployed to keep us up and running, and who remind us every day how critical it is for us to band together, especially in times of need. Their efforts speak volumes for their character and dedication, and their acts of compassion and generosity serve as a silver lining amid a crisis we will never forget.
Julie Fay, Executive Director Martha’s Vineyard Community Services
As Executive Director Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS), the Island’s social service safety net, Julie is at the forefront of maintaining the safety and security of our community’s most vulnerable residents at this critical time. Along with her staff, Julie has created a volunteer coordination program to help match organizations looking for volunteers and volunteers looking to help their community during this difficult time. As of March 16, Julie had organized her patient clinic staff to allow them to work remotely, outfitting them with laptops to provide telehealth services so that they could transition from seeing clients in-person to clients over the phone. The agency contacted their entire caseload, calling clients daily to check-in and reinforce the agency’s support. Says Julie “I’m so proud of my staff and so grateful for the team spirit and the embrace of the challenges of this pandemic.” ⠀
Matt Dix, Island Grown Initiative Farm Director
Matt Dix, Island Grown Initiative (IGI) Farm Director, has long been committed to building a regenerative, equitable food system on Martha’s Vineyard, and never before have his efforts mattered more. As our global food chains become weakened Matt and IGI are implementing several new processes, including utilizing a new tunnel to begin seedlings, taking a regenerative approach to what they’re growing inside the greenhouse, and ramping up food production earlier in the season than they have in previous years. According to Matt the silver lining in all this is that “it’s giving the Island growers incentive to ramp up food production to see if we can feed our community.”
Tara Lewis, Postmaster of West Tisbury
Mail delivery has always been essential to our Island community, but today Tara’s work, and those of all postal employees, has become more important than ever. “People need to get their medicine and salary checks. On this island, it is difficult to get goods because most of the stores are closed so people really depend on the mail for delivery.” Tara’s everyday efforts have been amplified by increased demands on the mail system along with added concerns about keeping her facility safe and clean while adhering to CDC and government guidelines. “I’m just happy to be getting people what they need.”
Warren Holmberg, Pharmacist and Owner at Leslie’s Drug
As Pharmacist and Owner at Leslie’s Drug, Warren Holmberg is serving a vital role. These days this Everyday Hero stays busy fulfilling prescriptions for the Island community, including the influx of seasonal residents and is adapting by preparing medicine for curbside pick up. Early on, the hospital invited Warren and all Island pharmacies to a conference call in order to establish safety guidelines and protocol should a COVID-19 patient need medication. After the phone call he was relieved and comforted by the hospital’s communication and thoughtful strategic plan. Warren will stay open as long as he can and is committed to serving his community. Clearly his passion for pharmacy runs deep, marked by his Bowl of Hygieia tattoo.
Jenny DeVivo, Head Chef, Cafeteria Director Up-Island Schools
We always knew Jenny was an Everyday Hero, and it’s more evident than ever. Jenny and her lunch lady crew at the West Tisbury School prepare over 1000 meals a week to Island children and families for curbside pick up, an increase from 500 meals when school was first canceled due to the virus. This powerhouse has always encouraged healthy and thoughtful eating, and now she’s providing that experience for the kids to enjoy at home. An ever optimist, Jenny believes that the silver linings in all of this is that we learn that we can make do with less and that we come to truly appreciate that food is love and giving is powerful. She says “I feed my soul by feeding others,” the Island has never appreciated her more.
Elio Silva, owner of Vineyard Grocer, Island Entrepreneur
As the threat of the virus began to take hold Elio listened to the community and recognized the newfound fear associated with grocery shopping. He quickly implemented an online ordering system and began offering delivery and curbside pick-up, so people didn’t have to risk their health to get food. He started using masks in the store one week before the order went into effect and manages a food chain that brings food from off-Island 4-5 times a week. He is buying 40% more food than he did last year and he’s not slowing down. Elio believes “we never have a problem, we have an opportunity to create a solution. We might have a situation, but there is never a problem. There is an opportunity to create a solution.”
John Goeckel, Vineyard Haven Police Department
Officer John Goeckel of the Tisbury Police Department is used to life on the frontline, but these days it looks a lot different. This Everyday Hero continues to serve and protect while limiting face-to-face interactions, embracing more phone communications, and taking precautions at every turn. Despite the changes, Officer Goeckel is committed to duty and stressed that the police department is ready and willing to help the community, no matter what.
Kayte Morris, Executive Director of Island Food Pantry
Kayte is on the front lines of hunger relief on Martha’s Vineyard, and today she finds herself meeting unprecedented demand for the Pantry’s services. Visits to the Pantry have doubled since the beginning of March, and Kayte’s biggest challenge is keeping food on the shelves, up to 56,000 pounds of food a month, plus tackling the logistical challenges of transporting, storing, and distributing that amount of food. Kayte has seen a tremendous amount of community support for the Pantry, more than she ever could’ve imagined. “When nearly all of our volunteers had to step down (most of which are retired and older), a whole new crew of volunteers popped up and stepped in. New donors have come forward with levels of support we’ve never seen before.”
Georgia Maroni, Administrator Coordinator for Island Grown Initiative, Waitress at Lookout Tavern
Due to the pandemic Georgia has been working at the Island Food Pantry for the last three weeks and has been coordinating deliveries for seniors and home-bound families. She’s set up deliveries for over 100 Islanders. This Everyday Hero has taken on the stress of the world, and our community, and is also worried about her own financial security, as she’s already lost at least a month’s pay at her restaurant job, which remains closed because of the virus. On the bright side, she is happy to see the restructuring of our food chain. Georgia believes “our food should get more localized. It’s what everyone was hoping would happen and I think this will stick with people for a long time.”
Juli Vanderhoop, Selectwomen for the town of Aquinnah and owner of Orange Peel Bakery
Juli has long served as an active member of our Island community, so it’s no surprise she’s risen to the occasion in this critical time of need. This Everyday Hero is used to feeding others through her bakery and cafe, but these days she’s running a makeshift bodega, providing a grocery service to 60 up-Island families. Back in March Juli was worried about her 89-year old mother getting food, and realized there were many others including elders who may not want or be able to go to the grocery store. Once she started providing food for her family, Juli was encouraged to take it one step further and provide for her larger community. She implemented an order-by-text system and places orders twice a week with her wholesale distributor. The community is so thankful and she’s so happy to be able to provide for them. As her neighbor said, “don’t you fall Juli, because you are holding up this community.”
Michael Barnes, delivery driver for Island Food Pantry
Three days a week Mike travels from Martha’s Vineyard to pick up food in New Bedford from the Greater Boston Food Bank and delivers it to the Island Food Pantry, which distributes it to local families in need. This Everyday Hero started making the trips three years ago, which he initially did once a week, then twice a week, now three times a week. Before the pandemic, Mike would travel to New Bedford alone and workers there would assist him in loading food onto his truck. These days his wife and two sons join him on his ride to help reduce contact with others, and his healthy, strong family is taking the necessary steps to be safe. He’s amazed at the work his kids are doing and is grateful for their help.
Mercedes Fererra, Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, Food Service Director
Mercedes has been offering school lunch and breakfast since the shelter in place order took effect, and the demand for meals has steadily increased. Recently she implemented a new system to reduce contact, and families can pick up food twice a week instead of daily, and still receive the same amount of food. Orders are placed online and picked up on Mondays and Thursdays. This Everyday Hero is thankful for her suppliers including Island Food Products, Sysco, and ITC Distributors, and our community is thankful for her.