When someone calls for the Red Stocking Fund, and in December the phone rings often, co-chairs Susie Wallo and Sandy Joyce both rush to answer it.

“From September to December, it’s close to a full-time job,” said Ms. Joyce, who was recruited to the co-chair position by Ms. Wallo seven years ago. Ms. Wallo is now in her third decade with the fund, and her ninth as co-chair, having learned from longtime chair Kerry Alley.

“It’s a labor of love, so it’s not a labor at all,” Ms. Wallo said.

The Red Stocking Fund was founded in 1938 with the gift of six hand-knitted and stuffed stockings to Island children in need. It has grown ever since and this year will provide more than 300 children with gifts and necessities their families couldn’t otherwise provide.

It is the work of many hands, a charity rooted in community and tradition.

In an interview this week, Ms. Joyce and Ms. Wallo wore Christmas plaid and each brought with them a bright-red spiral notebook in which they record the names and info of each child. This allows them, they said, to learn the needs and priorities of each child, and to better coordinate efforts. It is a system passed down by Mr. Alley, whose impact is still felt despite stepping down as co-chair a few years ago. On the list of board members, he and his wife Pat are listed as Chief Elves Forever.

“What we do here . . . is much the same as we inherited,” Ms. Wallo said. “We respect that. That’s what makes us Red Stocking.”

The two co-chairs work as one, Ms. Wallo said, and their teamwork is essential to the job.

The Red Stocking Fund is a grassroots operation supporting Island children at holiday time. — Ray Ewing

“Our sense of humor gets us through what, some days, can be just heartbreaking,” Ms. Wallo said. “There’s this belief out there that the Island is a playground for the rich, but there are so many families in need. It’s gotten even more desperate for many folks.”

It’s a big job and it takes an Island to do it. After applications are verified, kids are anonymously matched with the elves (individuals or organizations) who shop for them. Each child receives pajamas, socks, underwear, a winter hat, mittens, school supplies, a book and a puzzle. Recipient families also pick items from another group of clothing essentials, with most selecting a winter coat, a cold-weather outfit and boots or sneakers.

“Hopefully, being able to provide these things, that takes the pressure off the family on electric, heating, rent and food,” Ms. Wallo said.

In addition, Island civic organizations run their own toy and donation drives to benefit the organization. The Oak Bluffs Fire-EMS department and the Edgartown patrolman’s association are holding Stuff-An-Ambulance and Stuff-A-Bus events on Dec. 4 and 10, respectively, and the Martha’s Vineyard Harley Riders hosted their annual fundraiser and toy drive over Veterans Day weekend.  

“It is really extraordinary. This Island is full of elves and there are angels everywhere,” said Mrs. Joyce. “It does literally bring us to tears.”

Both women emphasized the grassroots nature of the organization, which receives mail-in donations from $10 to $2,000, and an outpouring of enthusiastic shopper-elves.

“[The elves] start calling us in October saying ‘are you ready? We are so excited!’” Ms. Wallo said. “The shoppers, they tell us that they literally feel the joy of giving...they really do get more than they give.”

There is also a “small but mighty” group of dedicated, longtime board members, though Mrs. Joyce noted they are hoping to get younger members involved.

“Everyone is so passionate about it, we are so lucky to live on this Island,” Mrs. Joyce said. “It’s about making magic one kiddo at a time.”

For more information, visit theredstockingfund.org. Legos and kitchen toys top the list of desired gifts. And more volunteer elves are always needed.