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F.I.S.H. preparing to move into bigger building

By Staff | Aug 25, 2009

Friends In Service Here (F.I.S.H.) of Sanibel is getting ready to move to a bigger location to meet the needs of its growing client base.

This Saturday, F.I.S.H. will begin moving from its current location in The Village Shops to its new location at 1630 Periwinkle Way, next to the Heart of the Islands shopping plaza. The new F.I.S.H. Walk-In Center will be open to the public starting at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 1.

The move was considered necessary to meet the needs of F.I.S.H.’?s growing number of people they help, explained organization president Maggi Feiner. The non-profit agency is dedicated to helping island residents with financial or physical hardships.

  • “It’?s added space for the exact same cost,?” she said.

The space in the new F.I.S.H. Walk-In Center will be more functional for the agency than its previous location. There will be additional room for the food pantry and to store health-care equipment, Feiner said. Right now, health care equipment is being stored at City Hall on Dunlop Road. In order for clients to access the equipment presently, a volunteer must meet the client at City Hall to get it.

With more space available to them, F.I.S.H. is adding a computer room for clients to use. the computer room will allow clients to be able to sign up for unemployment

benefits, food assistance and job services, Feiner noted. Furniture for the new building has been donated by Joan Good, the landlord.

F.I.S.H. staff members have been experiencing a surge in clients since they opened their doors two years ago. At that time, they served elderly people needing transportation to doctor appointment as well as helps some residents who in need

of food or referral services.

Then, their needs shot up in April of 2008 as the economy soured across the country and locally. Last year, the agency serviced 450 clients. Many of the clients needed emergency funds from the Helping Hands Program for paying utilities or rent. And with people being laid off having their hours cut, F.I.S.H. began to see faces they have never seen before – including young families.

“We have always seen problems, but they have not been as dramatic as now,?” Feiner said.

From April of 2008 to December of 2008, the agency donated approximately 14,000 pounds of food, Feiner explained. This year, F.I.S.H. averages 3,000 pounds in food donations.

The 30-year-old agency has partnered with the Harry Chapin Food Bank in Fort Myers and purchases food as well. But community donations from businesses and service organizations have been the lifeblood of the stretched organization. Recently, they have received food donations from Lily? & Co. Jewelers and Bailey?’s General Store as well as both the Kiwanis and Zonta organizations.

“The community has been absolutely wonderful,?” Feiner added.

Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday. Starting on Thursday, Oct. 1, F.I.S.H. will also be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays as well.

F.I.S.H. is in need of food donations and volunteers to man the Walk-In Center and transport clients. For more information, call 472-4775.