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Donations poured in and volunteers rushed to help: Here’s how Martha’s Vineyard communities responded to the arrival of migrants


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By Miguel Marquez and Christina Maxouris, CNN

In the hours after roughly 50 migrants touched down on Martha’s Vineyard in two planes sent by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the island’s community — still jarred by the unexpected arrival — rushed to help the newcomers.

“We received food, we received clothes, we received … different things, so much so that we’ve had to relocate that donation drop-off spot to the fire department,” Edgartown, Massachusetts, town administrator James Hagerty told CNN Wednesday.

Town officials had to post on social media they did not need more donations, Hagerty added, as items continued to pour in.

“I think that’s a testament to the community of the island, and it’s a testament to the citizens of Edgartown, it’s a testament to everything that’s going on now,” he said.

“We’ve been through Covid, we’ve been through hurricanes, we’ve been through this, we’ve been through a lot of things imaginable for a small community and every one of those we’ve risen up as the Vineyard, ’cause we’re resilient,” Hagerty said. “We take care of our own, we take care of the community, we help people out.”

The town is no stranger to large population influxes. Located off the coast of Massachusetts, the island of Martha’s Vineyard — home to Edgartown and several other municipalities — is known as a posh summer destination for wealthy vacationers.

While the town’s winter population is a couple hundred people, it jumps up to several thousand during the hotter months when they welcome summer tourists, Hagerty said.

An estimated year-round island population of around 20,000 can balloon to more than 100,000 during peak tourism season.

But the challenge with this week’s arrival of migrants was they were unexpected, the town administrator said, and it all happened so “last minute” and the migrants’ needs were so diverse and included relocation and transportation costs for those who were looking to go to another part of the country.

In addition to the donations, the towns on the island as well as community-based and nonprofit groups helped in the effort to care for the migrants and offer them shelter, food and care, according to a Facebook post from the Dukes County government.

“We are grateful to the many local and neighboring community members who have reached out with offers of support,” county officials wrote in the post.

Residents from across the island and other parts of the country raised more than $175,000 after the migrants’ arrival, according to Beth Folcarelli, CEO of the nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. And while there were some large donations consisting of multiple thousands of dollars, most of the donations made for the migrants were contributions between $50 to $100, Folcarelli said.

“In just two days we built such a connection between the volunteers who worked at the shelter and really providing and working with the migrants to really take some next steps for their future in this country,” she said.

On Friday, the migrants were transported to a military base to receive shelter and humanitarian support, officials said.

Before they left, all those who needed a cell phone were provided a mobile device with a US-based number, and they were all given a $50 Visa card, with the help of funds raised by the community, Folcarelli said.

“We did come together, and I think were able to organize really in a very short time, get things going for them,” she added. “People stepped forward right away.”

The unexpected arrival is the latest move in a series of actions by Republican governors to transport migrants to northern liberal cities and states in order to protest the Biden administration’s policies at the southern border.

Also this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he sent two buses of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence in the nation’s capital, and the Thursday arrival surprised unsuspecting volunteers. Democratic leaders denounced the moves and the White House press secretary called the actions “cruel, premeditated political” stunts.

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CNN’s Nicki Brown, Carolyn Sung and Kristina Sgueglia contributed to this report.

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