When Wiet Bacheller is not knocking on doors for donations to Island nonprofits, she takes dance classes and gardens. But her hobbies take a backseat to her volunteer work — her garden, she said, has become a jungle this summer.

On Sunday, Ms. Bacheller’s decades-long commitment to helping others will be recognized at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services 45th annual fundraiser, the Possible Dreams Auction.

An educator and past president of the organization, Ms. Bacheller will receive the inaugural Art Buchwald Award for Outstanding Community Service, named for the Washington Post journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner who founded, chaired and hosted Possible Dreams for 28 years.

Art Buchwald founded and hosted the fundraiser for almost three decades. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Art had a long-term commitment and vision to supporting the organization and to the needs of the Island,” said Beth Folcarelli, chief executive officer of MVCS. “Wiet is of the same ilk. I think she’s a very fitting first recipient and honoree.”

This year, comedian and Late Night host Seth Meyers will once again host Possible Dreams. The event takes place Sunday, July 23 at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Edgartown. Tickets are sold out.

Community Services is the Island’s largest community health and social services organization, serving thousands of Islanders from infants to seniors to contribute to the community’s overall health and well-being. The nonprofit relies on donations throughout the year for its programs which include everything from child care to domestic and sexual violence services to disability and mental health services.

Ms. Folcarelli said she feels that mental health and addiction recovery needs stand front and center for the organization’s current efforts.

“I think that our Island is still actually recovering from the effects of the pandemic and all the changes that occurred to Martha’s Vineyard as byproducts to the Covid pandemic,” she said.

Ms. Bacheller’s service history began when she arrived on-Island in the 1960s from a different island: Java in Indonesia. She planned to teach on Martha’s Vineyard for a few years with her husband, John, before returning home. 

But she never left. Instead, she spent 40 years teaching in the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury schools and raising her twin children, now 50 years old.

When she retired in 2006, Ms. Bacheller said she was approached about serving on the Community Services board of directors. She agreed to a three-year commitment, unaware of the meaning she would gain from the position.

Three years became a decade-long tenure. Beginning in 2010, she served for two years as board president and concluded her formal service to MVCS in 2015. Her involvement with the organization persists, however, as she continued to volunteer for Possible Dreams until Covid.

“I loved being a part of it. Unlike some boards, you don’t have to be deep-pocketed,” she said of the MVCS board of directors. “It is so much more important to consider what you can contribute with outreach and as a stakeholder, what you can tell us is missing and how you can use your eyes and ears in the community.”

In addition to MVCS, Ms. Bacheller volunteers for the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, the Tisbury School Advisory Council, the Yard and the Chicken Alley Thrift advisory committee. 

Of her many service accomplishments, Ms. Bacheller said she is most proud of her hand in developing the MVCS Early Education and Care Center, which provides Island families with affordable childcare. But she credits spearheading the Vineyard license plate initiative as her favorite. The initiative dictates that 80 per cent of funds from the Martha’s Vineyard license plate registration process goes toward MVCS programs and the remaining 20 per cent is delegated to other Island nonprofits selected by the MVCS board. 

“I hope to energize people to donate their time or their resources because I believe that we are all in this together,” she said of receiving the award. “And I don’t think I would have lasted this long if I weren’t having a good time.”

Indeed, Ms. Bacheller has empowered generations of people dedicated to supporting the Island community. Ms. Bacheller’s influence extends long before her efforts to enlist volunteers and raise money for Island services. It began with her students in the Oak Bluffs and Tisbury schools. 

Many of the doors Ms. Bacheller knocks on belong to her former students, who have now grown up to own local businesses or have their own children in Island schools. One former fourth grade student, Jesse Steere III, is now president of Shirley’s Hardware Inc. in Vineyard Haven. When Ms. Bacheller knocks on his door, she knows she can count on his generosity. 

Another former student, John Custer, principal of the Tisbury School, sits on the advisory council with Ms. Bacheller. Much to her frustration, while Mr. Custer refers to everyone on the council by their first name, he still calls his former third grade teacher Ms. Bacheller.

“To sit on boards and committees with former students is so rewarding,” Ms. Bacheller said. “It’s wonderful to see they’re all giving back.”

She finds her students’ charitable spirit resonates across the Island, from year-round to seasonal residents. 

“This is a very special place,” she said. “I couldn’t have done any of this alone. People are generous with their talent, time and resources at every level. It’s been a joy all these years knocking doors.”