The Island Food Pantry, the organization that provides free food for the needy, had its busiest day ever on Wednesday. Seventy-one visitors came for food at the center, in the basement of the Christ United Methodist Church, the stone church in downtown Vineyard Haven.

The food pantry’s season began with a need double than that of a year ago. Armen Hanjian, coordinator for the nonprofit organization, said in the first six weeks of the season, up until the end of November, demand had slacked off a bit but visits were considerable at 589, compared to 338 a year ago.

On Wednesday morning the basement was packed with groceries, ready to go. Volunteers were told to expect 60 visitors, all in need. Counter tops in the kitchen were covered. There were plastic bags full of fruit. There were heavy brown paper bags loaded with cans and other items. For Phil Dietterich of Oak Bluffs, who has volunteered for at least five years, the days at the pantry are busier now than he has ever seen.

Fortunately, the amount of food coming in is significant, too. A children’s nursery room is being used more now; it’s full of groceries that have come from a broad spectrum of people who are giving. They come through events held across the Island, where people are urged to donate bags of groceries.

It is hard for Mr. Hanjian, a retired Methodist minister, to keep on top of all the numbers in the moment, but he said his sense is that the generosity of the community is close to matching the need.

He said the pantry is meeting the community need without diminishing their endowment — though, like the investments of many, the food pantry’s endowment “is not worth as much as it was a year ago,” he added.

Of the community support so far, Mr. Hanjian said: “The community has been supportive to this point. I trust they will continue to be supportive.”

The startling reality of the community’s need during this difficult winter season is carried by the 60 volunteers who come into help sort, stack and disperse the groceries early on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, in preparation for the hours of operation 2 to 4 p.m.

Maribeth Priore of Vineyard Haven started volunteering three weeks ago. Her step indoors to help the organization as a “stocker” on a regular basis was easy to explain. “I just believe nobody should go to bed hungry,” she said. Giving a hand this Wednesday morning was her way of helping.

Carole Early of Vineyard Haven has volunteered for years. She said that in the course of two hours, when the pantry is open, the counters will be cleared of food several times. “It is especially busy the first two weeks of every month,” she said.

This is Mr. Hanjian 12th year.

There is a protocol for those in need. The first time they come, they are given food without question. When they come a second time they must bring a letter of reference from someone with a letterhead stating the need. The letter can be written by a clergy, medical or social worker of some kind.

Mr. Hanjian’s great concern, he said, is that those who would need the Island Food Pantry might be too reluctant to use it even in these difficult times. “I hope they would get past their inner resistance to use the Island Food Pantry,” he said.

Island churches, schools, businesses and grocery stores have been central in bringing in food. “There was just a showing of the Wizard of Oz at the Capawock,” Mr. Hanjian said. “It was free for those who contributed to the food pantry. They collected 13 milk crates full of food,” Mr. Hanjian said.

The movie Polar Express will be shown at the Capawock on Dec. 17 at 4:30 p.m. and is a similar admission, to bring more groceries to the food pantry.

“I understand that the Tisbury School children put boxes out in the shops,” Mr. Hanjian said.

On Dec. 21, the Island Food Pantry will receive a financial contribution from afar. The Massachusetts Bankers Association Charitable Foundation, based in Boston, will deliver a check for $5,000 to Mr. Hanjian. The nomination to make the contribution to a worthy cause was initiated by those at Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank.

Through the generosity of others, the Island Food Pantry’s ability to serve the community has expanded. For a while the United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard ran a program called Clothes to Go at Trinity Methodist Church in the Camp Ground, Oak Bluffs. They offered free slightly used clothing to those in need; the clothing includes shirts, hats, slacks, outerwear, shoes and boots. In the past year the program was moved next door to work in conjunction with the Island Food Pantry. Through the combined effort of more volunteers, a visitor coming to the Island Food Pantry now also can get some free clothing.

Clothes to Go is open every Wednesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Mr. Hanjian said there is a need now for more winter coats.

The Food Pantry operates from mid-October to mid-April. February and March can be even busier than now. Tax deductible contributions to The Island Food Pantry should be sent to P.O. Box 1874, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.