The community fund MVYouth this week awarded a $250,000 grant to Vineyard Youth Tennis to replace the bubble that allows for wintertime play at the facility off Barnes Road in Oak Bluffs.

The grant arrives at a time of major transition for the unusual nonprofit organization that has provided free tennis instruction for Island youth for the past 20 years.

The founder and sole benefactor for the program, Gerald DeBlois of West Tisbury, announced last year that he would step down in August after two decades.

Organization looks to adapt after sole benefactor steps down. — Jeanna Shepard

Since then the organization has been taking steps to remain financially solvent while maintaining its core commitment to youth tennis. Those steps included a permit modification that would allow the facility to offer adult tennis at market rate so that it could cover the costs of operation. The modifications recently received a unanimous vote from the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and a signoff from the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals.

“It’s really just a simple word change,” said Chris Scott, who is currently serving as the unpaid executive director for Vineyard Youth Tennis. “Instead of restricting the facility to children only, adults can now play there. We did have one individual who funded it, and it was his vision to do it, and it was something he did for 20 years, but unfortunately one year ago he had to step away. The concept is that fee-based adult play will cover most of the overhead costs of the facility. Vineyard Youth Tennis is very near to all our hearts, and we’re encouraged with where it’s going.”

The modification to the charter will allow adults to play from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and from 6:30 to 9 p.m. during the school year, and from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on a maximum of two courts during the summer.

There will be changes in the youth instruction programs too. Although the first six-week session will remain free for all Vineyard children, the organization will be allowed to charge families a nominal fee for subsequent sessions. According to Mr. Scott, VYT has set up a scholarship fund to ensure that any child who can’t afford the nominal price will still have an opportunity to play.

“Many people have stepped forward to keep the program going while we start this new phase of the process, saying they want to contribute,” he said. “Any child who has real financial hardship will not be turned away.”

Vineyard Youth Tennis began 20 years ago thanks to benefactor Gerry DeBlois. — Jeanna Shepard

The record for Vineyard Youth Tennis has been notable, with more than 1,000 kids coming through the program over the past 20 years. As a result, the high school team has become a tennis powerhouse, winning six state championships in the last seven years. The boys team won back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013. The girls team has won four consecutive state titles, beginning in 2015.

Mr. Scott, whose daughter plays on the high school team and came up through the ranks of youth tennis, said creating a tennis dynasty was never part of the founding vision for the program. “That had never been the game plan for VYT,” Mr. Scott said. “It’s sort of an unanticipated end result. The goal was

to expose Island kids to the game, and all the good things that happen to them when they play sports. Tennis particularly teaches a level of commitment and maturity and toughness, and we’ve had really great success.”

At a meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission two weeks ago, it was clear that neither Mr. Scott nor the commissioners wanted that success to change.

“We’re trying to make it more of a community facility,” Mr. Scott told the commission. “It’s not only underutilized in the morning, it’s never utilized. By allowing adults to use the facility we can better service the 300 kids who take lessons there every year.”

Another change will involve allowing recent high school graduates ages 18 to 25 to continue playing at the facility in an instructional or mentorship capacity. Previously, because of permit regulations, a player could not train at VYT after turning 18.

Charter will be changed to allow adults to pay for a fee. — Jeanna Shepard

“Now we want to turn that around and offer those kids a higher level of training, or the ability to work as instructors,” Mr. Scott said. “It’s inspirational to the younger kids as well to see players just like them who went through the program and then go on to be instructors themselves.”

The expansion grant from MVYouth this week came ahead of the ordinary

grant cycle for 2019 in order to expedite the purchase of the bubble before the onset of winter weather. The previous bubble, already past its prime, was destroyed in a severe northeast storm last winter.

Yet even with the bubble underway, many logistical concerns remain for the structure of an organization that has relied on the generosity of one donor for two decades. While the long-term plan involves funding children’s play with adult fees, the short-term one is more complicated.

“Right now, we are using cash reserves and recruiting new donors to cover the facility’s costs in the immediate future,” Mr. Scott said.

No changes will take effect at the facility until Jan. 1 at the earliest.

“Hopefully within the next three weeks there will be a few announcements about our exact pricing structure and membership system,” Mr. Scott said.

At the MVC meeting, commissioner Trip Barnes offered Mr. Scott his blessing.

“Keep those balls in the air, kid,” he said.