With the hiring of a new director of development and community relations, planned changes to its annual summer fundraiser, and a continued search for a new executive director, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services is spending its winter on a forward path.
“I’m excited; I’m looking forward to this next phase,” said Victor Capoccia, chair of the nonprofit organization’s board.
That next phase involves a greater push for outreach and connection in what is already an invaluable resource for many on the Island.
“Community Services needs to be a vital organization — we want to increase our presence as a good citizen and engaged participant,” Mr. Capoccia said.
Part of that is the hiring of Nell Coogan as the organization’s new director of development and community relations. Ms. Coogan previously worked for four years as the legislative liaison for State Representative Tim Madden and State Senator Dan Wolf. (Kaylea Moore takes over the liaison position.) Ms. Coogan is an attorney, holds a master of public health degree, and is an assistant coach for the girls’ varsity hockey team at the high school. Her husband, Anthony Carestia, manages Alchemy in Edgartown. Their two young children are enrolled in Community Services’ Early Childhood programs.
“I just really want to see these programs grow and make sure we’re hitting all of the people out there who need these services,” Ms. Coogan said. “It’s more of a hybrid than what we’ve had before,” she said of her new job. Much of the position involves fund-raising efforts and finding “sources of support and volunteers,” Ms. Coogan said, but she is also responsible for reaching out to the school system and other organizations such as the YMCA and Youth Task Force to develop a cohesive support network across the Vineyard. She described the outreach work as “right up my alley.”
“I think it’s going to be fun,” Ms. Coogan said.
Community Services executive director Julia Burgess said that Ms. Coogan’s experience navigating the state system and working with state contracts in her previous position was an asset to the organization. “We’re really very happy to have Nell,” she told the Gazette.
Ms. Burgess announced her retirement from the organization last May and will step down in June. The board’s search for her replacement is ongoing.
Changes are underway for the annual Possible Dreams Auction, as well. The auction celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, and has raised over $8,000,000 for Community Services. Each year it provides funding for programs such as Connect to End Violence, Disability Services, Early Childhood programs, and the Island Counseling Center.
The auction committee received approval from the Edgartown planning board to hold the 2013 auction at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Katama. The decision was unanimously approved and met with applause by the planning board. It is currently in the hearing phase.
“We really loved being in Oak Bluffs, and we may in the future [be there]”, auction chair Sandy Pimentel said in a phone conversation. Possible Dreams was held at the Harborside Inn in Edgartown for 29 years, and moved to the Outerland (now Flatbread Pizza Company) in 2008. It took place in Ocean Park from 2009 to last year.
“We thought a change might be exciting for people . . . [committee member] John Kennedy and I went around and tried to find a site that would be different and new,” Mrs. Pimentel said of the decision to move locations.
Boston-based comedian and actor Jimmy Tingle takes over the auctioneer and emcee torch. Mr. Tingle has performed at the Vineyard Playhouse.
“He’s going to take the gauntlet from the Buchwalds,” Mrs. Pimentel said. “When I called him, he didn’t hesitate.”
The late Art Buchwald was a longtime auctioneer for Possible Dreams. In his final year, 2006, he drew a record $800,000 in bids from attendees. Last year, the auction raised over $400,000.
The auction committee is also exploring a collaboration with the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, focusing on the life of the late John Belushi with proceeds to benefit Community Services’ Substance Abuse Unit, and a proposed tennis tournament, with proceeds benefitting the Blues Brothers fund, which combats depression and its associated stigma.
“If anyone is interested in working for any of these programs, give us a call,” Mrs. Pimentel said. “We want this to be a community event, and the more collaboration we get, the better.”