Chamber, Bailey’s partner up on fundraiser to benefit F.I.S.H.
With many islanders turning to F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva for aid during the COVID-19 pandemic, the community has an opportunity to extend a helping hand to its neighbors in need – for about $15.
The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce and Bailey’s General Store recently joined together for a T-shirt fundraiser, with 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit F.I.S.H. For $14.99, people can buy a “Community Over Crisis – Coming Together While Staying Apart” shirt from Bailey’s.
“We wanted to do something for our restaurant, hotel, vacation rental folks who are currently out of work right now because of the COVID-19 crisis that we are working through,” chamber President John Lai said. “For March and April, all rely on those months heavily for a large portion of their income.”
F.I.S.H. President Maggi Feiner agreed.
“For March, and it didn’t even hit until mid-March, we were already over 5,000 pounds of food more than last year,” she said. “And the requests for financial assistance, that had a dramatic increase.”
“In a regular season, March and April are still extremely good months for the island workers to be making money,” Feiner added, explaining that the spike in requests for aid is a combination of the virus closing season early and workers heading into off-season. “When they don’t make a lot of money.”
Workers, who usually have two or even three jobs, have seen a reduction in hours or job loss.
“Their entire working system has collapsed,” she said.
Lai reported that the chamber started doing some research, asking its members impacted by the pandemic where they were directing their employees who needed to get food or pay a bill.
“We found out the common answer was F.I.S.H.,” he said.
“It really does provide relief for so many of our island employees, whether or not they live on the islands,” Lai added, explaining that the chamber then reached out to Bailey’s about possibly helping to sell the shirts and it quickly offered support. “We thought that would be the perfect collaboration.”
Bailey’s Manager Calli Johnson explained that the store is one of the few places still with traffic.
“The chamber understands that most people aren’t out and about these days,” she said. “So we feel like it’s a community obligation to make sure that the shirts are available in a place that is high traffic.”
It is not the first time that Bailey’s has thrown in its support to help.
“In times of high demand, F.I.S.H. has a hard time getting everything that they need to support the community, so we use our buying power to purchase the food products that are in need,” Johnson said. “We’re always happy to do whatever we can to support such deserving organizations like F.I.S.H.”
The shirts are set up at the entrance to the store.
“We’re trying to get as much visibility as possible,” Johnson said. “It’s a really cool design, and it’s priced affordably. The point is to make it as easy as possible if people want to do some good.”
For Lai, the design is what stuck with him when he first saw it.
“The message of the T-shirt is what resonated with me,” he said. “It resonated the fact that the island community is stronger than any crisis that we’ve faced. And we come out stronger in the end.”
Both reiterated that all of the proceeds will directly benefit F.I.S.H. and its clients.
“We’re just taking the sale and writing a check,” Johnson said.
“We wanted to make sure F.I.SH. had some additional resources during this difficult time,” Lai added. “A $15 purchase is going to go a long way in making sure F.I.S.H. has those additional resources.”
According to Feiner, the proceeds will help support a couple of its programs.
“The funds really are going to be mainly used for the food pantry for purchases,” she said. “It’s also going to help the workers of the islands – many, many of them are not working.”
With only a small percentage of unemployment claims processed, financial assistance is also high.
“Many of these workers cannot make their rent, their utilities, or their mortgage,” Feiner said.
A portion of the funds will go to a meal program typically used by seniors, the disabled or ill.
“We also are funding our meals program, which we work with Bailey’s on,” she said, referring to the Meals-by-F.I.S.H. service. “We have seen that almost double in the amount of people requesting food.”
The community is invited to stop by Bailey’s and pick up a shirt.
“This is a time when a lot of people feel like they don’t have a lot of control over what’s happening in their lives. This is a small way they can exert some control over everything that’s going on and do something good,” Johnson said. “F.I.S.H. is an organization that has a really important mission in our community, especially right now, and this is a really easy way to support them.”
Feiner reflected on learning about the planned fundraiser.
“When I first heard of it I thought, ‘What incredible partnerships we have.’ F.I.S.H., we represent the islands and community – this is just an incredible show of how this community pulls together.”
“Any time we’ve been through a crisis, the one thing that really really amazes me is not only the individuals who come together to help out, but the businesses too – who are hurting themselves,” she added. “Even if it’s $5, that $5 means a lot to somebody who walks through our doors at F.I.S.H.”
Lai thanked Bailey’s for agreeing to collaborate and F.I.S.H. for all it does for the islands.
“We’re just happy to contribute to the community,” he said of the chamber.
Bailey’s General Store is at 2477 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.