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

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 relocated that donation drop-off spot to the fire department,” Edgartown, Massachusetts, town administrator James Hagerty told CNN Wednesday.

Town officials even had to post on social media that they didn’t 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 that they were unexpected, the town administrator said, and that it all happened so “last minute.”

In addition to the donations, the towns on the island as well as community-based and nonprofit groups are helping 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.

Now, Hagerty said, the biggest help that town officials need is financial: the migrants have a variety of needs, including relocating to a different city in the US and getting the transportation to make it there.

“We’re trying to handle it as best as we can,” Hagerty said. “The needs are diverse and financial support would best facilitate a lot of those diversities.”

The 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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