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Youth invest in islands through community service with F.I.S.H.

By Staff | May 9, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Johnny Jensen

Community, by definition, is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common; a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

Sanibel and Captiva have a unique community-focused tradition, atypical of other seasonal locales. More remarkable is the sense of community shared by all generations of island residents – including the youngest.

F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva was founded nearly four decades ago as a group of “neighbors helping neighbors” and their youth community service volunteers are no exception to that spirit. Over the years, island youth have held a variety of events on behalf of F.I.S.H., ranging from lemonade stands and food drives to donation collections and hours spent stocking the food pantry. Through their various volunteer efforts, many who have participated have expressed appreciation for what they have learned about their community and the people who live, work and visit here. Sanibel-Captiva youth are becoming leaders, problem solvers and contributors to something much larger than themselves while discovering that changing the world often starts at home.

“Volunteering at F.I.S.H. has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life,” volunteer Johnny Jensen said. “Not only is it nice to give back to the community, but it allows me to take a few steps back and realize what’s important; not getting, but giving.”

Johnny, a musician, also uses his talent to raise funds for F.I.S.H.

PHOTO PROVIDED Food collection by Boy Scout Troop 1740.

“One of my passions has been performing music for people, so I thought it would be great if I could donate some of the money I earned to the F.I.S.H. food pantry after seeing all they do for the community,” he said. “Doing this makes each performance just that much better, knowing that I get to do what I love and make a difference. Thanks to the wonderful people at F.I.S.H. for all they do, and I hope to be able to contribute for many years to come.”

Whether volunteering as an individual as Johnny does, or in a group like Boy Scout Troop 1740, every effort makes a difference. Each year, Troop 1740 collects canned and non-perishable food on behalf of the F.I.S.H. food pantry.

“The great part about volunteering in my community is that I know the people I am helping, and I see a lot of familiar faces every year,” volunteer and Boy Scout Kenny Kouril said. “This makes me feel like I’m directly helping people, instead of just fulfilling a requirement for Scouting or high school.”

His mother, Kim Kouril, is the committee chair and founder of Boy Scout Troop 1740.

“As a mom, I know it’s important for my boys to donate their time and energy to something worthwhile; something greater than their everyday actions, cares and woes,” she said. “It gives them perspective and makes them realize that caring for other people is paramount. We may be on this planet to learn and grow, and thrive, but we are also here to protect and nurture others, particularly in times of need. Every time Troop 1740 is involved in a volunteer project, I receive such positive feedback from the community about the boys, which makes us all so proud. They have a unique opportunity to work as a specific group, with a shared goal to accomplish. They operate as a team. Not only do they get to provide the value of volunteering through community service, but they get the value of working together as a team and feel that team spirit; a win-win all around.”

PHOTO PROVIDED Fields family's lemonade stand.

“We cannot thank these youngsters enough for their dedication to our community,” F.I.S.H. Walk-in Center Manager Maria Espinoza said. “They truly are an asset to our organization, and valuable members of our community. Thank you for donating your time and energy to F.I.S.H.”

There are always opportunities for volunteers at F.I.S.H. Volunteers are trained in areas of interest and placed with an experienced volunteer or staff member to help. With the help of volunteers, F.I.S.H. can continue its mission to lend a helping hand to those who live, work or visit Sanibel and Captiva.

For more on volunteering, contact Maria Espinoza at 239-472-4775.