On Martha’s Vineyard, a rush of migrants, from restaurateurs to Spanish students

Martha’s Vineyard reacts to surprise arrival of planes loaded with migrants

At first, Tim Dobel felt somewhat helpless. The migrants’ needs for shelter and medical care, not to mention the immigration policy that brought them to the island, were well beyond his control. But he and the staff at Mocha Mott’s in Vineyard Haven could make sure they had a hot cup of coffee to keep them warm.

“These people are so exhausted and feel used by whoever sent them here,” said Dobel, co-owner of Vineyard Haven cafe. “It’s the least we can do.”

Dobel said it was after Wednesday’s close when he and his team stepped up. Her daughter, Casey Engley, who is six months pregnant, lit the brewers, filled a few cartons with fresh coffee and delivered it to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, where the migrants had settled for the night.

Dobel dropped off a second batch early Thursday morning, where doctors had already arrived to assess the health of migrants. Boxes of pastries had been dropped off and breakfast sandwiches were on their way.

“The Vineyard is really stepping up,” he said. “It can feel a little cold here at times, but the people who live here are very warm and caring for each other and those in need.”

In the face of what elected officials called “a cruel ruse” and a “shameless political stunt”, everyone from teachers to shop workers to pensioners banded together to help the migrants. Danny Segal, owner of Edgartown Pizza, received a phone call from Martha’s Vineyard Community Services around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday asking for 10 extra-large pizzas.

He wasn’t sure who the order was for – only that there were dozens of people, including children, who suddenly needed food. So he offered the organization the same deep discount he gives to schools and nonprofits.

It was only later that Segal learned of the extraordinary circumstances that were unfolding. at the church at the end of the street.

“If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have charged anything,” Segal said. “Edgartown Pizza is here to help. This is what we do.”

Cecilia Brennan, who works at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, has been helping migrants since they arrived and called the response “a real community effort”.

Brennan said a number of restaurants like Segal’s have offered to donate food, and the Island Food Pantry has coordinated efforts to donate groceries.

Polly Toomey, owner of Among the Flowers Cafe, said she and her staff delivered quiches and fresh fruit to the church on Thursday, where organizers were “overwhelmed” with donations.

On Friday, she plans to bring even more quiches, along with “French toast” and other breakfast items.

“I hope people do it for us too,” Toomey said.

At Tony’s Market, a local grocery store, volunteers stopped to buy coffee, hot chocolate and milk to take home. General Manager Kelly Hill said the deli counter is also on standby to make sandwiches if needed.

“We want to rally behind these people who have kind of arrived in the middle of nowhere,” Hill said. “We’re just going to come together to see what we can do to get them to a better place.”

Sean Ready, owner of Edgartown Meat and Fish Market, said he had been on the phone with the Red Cross, offering whatever might be needed.

“We’re just waiting to see if they need anything,” Ready said. “It’s a small community here, so we’ll see what we can do to help.”

Outside the church where the migrants were staying, a steady stream of cars drove down Winter Street to drop off food, clothing and other supplies, or to help with translation.

Rob Donovan showed up with a check for $100 to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

“We love that they’re here, and I guess what we’re doing is making a political statement to Ron Desantis,” he said of the Florida governor who said he was responsible. of sending migrants to the wealthy island retreat, the latest such protest against the Biden administration’s immigration policies. “That’s what we’re going to do to show people that they’re welcome in this community.”

Wesley Doyle, general manager of the Vineyard Square Hotel and Suites, dropped off a box of toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, “and all the amenities we usually provide to our hotel guests.”

Maria Sanchez Roa, a student at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, was in her room on Wednesday “ignoring homework” when her mother came in and told her the migrants had arrived and Spanish translators were needed.

When she arrived at the church, she had “no idea” what she was supposed to do. But she started talking with the migrants “to help them and help them feel more comfortable”.

“I’m happy to be able to communicate and to be an outlet, and to help them express how they feel and to be there to talk to them and support them,” she said. “Once in a while it hits me, you know? I’m here to help these people and help them have a good time.

Lisa Belcastro, director of the Winter Homes homeless shelter, said they had received more community help than they could handle. Outside the church, around a donation drop-off and volunteer registration table, residents asked how they could get involved.

“I think we’re pretty covered,” said one volunteer.


Spencer Buell can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @SpencerBuell. Brittany Bowker can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @brittbowker and on Instagram @brittbowker.

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