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FISH services used more than ever by locals

By Staff | Jul 17, 2013

The number of island residents seeking help from FISH of Sanibel continues to increase each year.

Friends in Service Here (FISH) is the only human social service agency on the island and delivers a wide variety of programs throughout the community.

John Morse, president, said more people need help than ever before because of the nature of the local economy.

“We are still a seasonal economy. People have their hours cut and that requires a need to be filled,” he said at a recent presentation to the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce.

Last year, FISH serviced 1,158 clients and 813 households. Approximately 20 percent of their clients were under the age of 18.

Morse said most people think of FISH only as a food pantry, but it also offers different services through partner United Way agencies. Last year the food pantry helped 223 families stock their shelves and 57 children brought home food for the weekend through the FISH Backpack Program.

According to Morse, the total amount of food distributed has increased from 34,500 pounds in 2009 to 74,438 last year, showing how the need grows.

The organization also offers emergency financial assistance, medical equipment loans, daily hot meals, hurricane preparedness seminars, in-home visits for the elderly, and healthcare referrals. Through the United Way it provides tax preparation services, counseling, resume writing, and English language classes.

“These programs allow them to live a more meaningful and better quality of life,” said Morse.

Close to half of all funding for FISH comes from individual donations, besides grants and events like the upcoming FISH 10K race on Oct. 19. And out of all the funds collected, 90 percent goes directly to helping people.

Volunteers are needed as many of the seasonal residents leave the island over the summer months and it becomes harder to offer the same level of assistance.

For more information on becoming a volunteer, visit www.fishofsanibel.com.