Juli Vanderhoop spent her entire young adulthood searching for a place that felt like home. After 20 years, she gave up and moved back home to the Vineyard.

“I was always looking for a place like this off-Island,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “I’d walk down the road like I do here and wave to my neighbor, and maybe they’d wave back, maybe they wouldn’t.”

“Actually, they wouldn’t wave back,” she said with a laugh.

Now 18 years into her second chapter on the Island, the Aquinnah selectperson, tribal leader and founder of Orange Peel Bakery has not only found home, she has been named the recipient of this year’s Creative Living Award by the Martha’s Vineyard Community Foundation. Caught in a sliver of time between shifts at her bakery and the Aquinnah select board meeting, Ms. Vanderhoop paused for a moment Tuesday to reflect. Orange Peel had just hosted a High Holiday dinner special the previous weekend with Black Joy MV, and even on an off-season afternoon customers filtered in and out of the charming orange bake shack at the front of her property.

The honor, Ms. Vanderhoop said, is not one she takes lightly.

“It wasn’t about me,” she said. “It was the caliber of the people on the list before me . . . . It was touching that people nominated me along with some of the people I absolutely consider mentors and real activists for this Island.”

Orange Peel Bakery begets an orange bake shack for takeaway goodies. — Ray Ewing

Ms. Vanderhoop pursued many careers before returning to Aquinnah where she was born and grew up, including stints as a charter pilot, early childhood educator and aeronautical engineering student. After transporting her family back to the Island, she took jobs at restaurants before realizing she wanted a career that would allow her to spend more time with her children.

“I was working a lot and my son, who was seven at the time, said, ‘Mom, I just want you to come home,’” she said.

In 2006, she founded Orange Peel Bakery, the pizza and baked goods eatery that has become a center for community events in Aquinnah. The bakery began with Ms. Vanderhoop sitting at a table selling baked goods at the end of her driveway. A year later, she had built her now-famous pizza oven using clay imported from France.

“My goal was always to make a place people were willing to drive for,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “Coming from Aquinnah, I had always heard ‘Oh there’s nothing out there.’ But I knew exactly what was here.”

Ms. Vanderhoop has long since proved the naysayers wrong. In 15 years, her operation has grown substantially, adding a stage in the back yard and the bake shack where Ms. Vanderhoop offers her signature brownies, tarts and breads. Jars of honey from her bees, which she keeps in a hive at the back of her property, also sit ready for sale.

The bake shack operates by the honor system, with customers popping in to take what they need and leaving a few dollars in a box. Ms. Vanderhoop said it takes about 24 hours to sell out every day, with customers arriving at all hours.

“The honor system has worked very well,” she said. “That honor is my badge. I’ve given people the trust that no one else would give them...That means a lot to me.”

This past summer, Orange Peel’s performance space reached a zenith with the debut of Haint Blu, a site-specific work by Urban Bush Women that had taken more than two years to develop. The performance marked the latest collaboration between Orange Peel and the Island-based dance organization The Yard. For Ms. Vanderhoop, supporting the arts is another way she seeks to foster community in Aquinnah, located far from the live music venues down-Island.

“It can be a very powerful statement,” she said of the art her visitors have shared. “The Vineyard used to have more spaces for live music, but it doesn’t anymore.”

As an indigenous person, Ms. Vanderhoop said she is particularly interested in the concept of community, and how one builds and maintains ties to their home. For that reason, she hires local residents to work at her bakery, and her work in Aquinnah politics centers around making the Island an affordable and sustainable place for indigenous people to live. She is currently fundraising to build a playground next to town hall and has plans to create a food forest next to the upcoming affordable housing development at Carl Widdiss Way.

“I’ve seen children struggle here,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “I saw food foraging knowledge being lost, so I thought, why don’t we make a food forest?”

Ms. Vanderhoop is continually inspired by the young people she’s seen return to Aquinnah, just as she did nearly 20 years ago. All her work, she said, lies in service of forging a path for the generations after her, so they can afford to live, work and give back to the Island themselves.

“Bringing people home matters,” Ms. Vanderhoop said. “This is the place where we heal.”