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F.I.S.H. still collecting supplies for annual back-to-school drive

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | Jul 20, 2021

F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva will wrap up its annual Back-to-School Supplies Drive in a few days.

The social services organization, which lends a helping hand to those who live on, work on and visit the islands, kicked off the campaign earlier this month to help local families start off the 2021-22 school year on the right foot. The drive ends on July 25, so the community still has time to drop off donations.

“We just believe it’s essential that the families and the students are equipped with the proper tools, so that they can have academic success,” Assistant Executive Director Maria Espinoza said.

Students who do not have what they need cannot focus on their school work.

“So they’re fully equipped, so they’re not worrying about what they’re missing,” she said.

In 2020, F.I.S.H. distributed supplies to over 130 school-aged children, along with more than 100 underwear and socks, as part of the program. It is expecting an increase in requests this year.

“Families are still struggling from the pandemic last year and just fluctuating hours,” Espinoza said.

“Education can take a back seat to greater needs, like utilities or rent or food,” she added. “When they’re worried about that, it’s harder for them to get supplies for their kids.”

As of July 15, F.I.S.H. was still a bit short on the items needed.

“I think that a lot of that has to do with it being a shorter summer for the kids,” Espinoza said, explaining that students got out of school later than normal and are going back sooner as a result.

“So we are still in need of a lot of supplies,” she added.

Those who want to help can drop off donated items or even cash donations at the F.I.S.H. Walk-In Center, at 2430-B Periwinkle Way, Sanibel. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.

“The walk-in center is now open for everyone,” Espinoza said.

As for what items are needed, F.I.S.H. is seeking basic school supplies.

“We definitely need lots of paper,” she said. “Paper, notebooks, composition books and binders.”

Rulers, pencils, glue sticks and such are also helpful.

“A lot of parents have asked for small hand sanitizers,” Espinoza said.

F.I.S.H. also provides students with new socks and underwear as needed to start off the school year. For the clothing items, it is seeking sizes for boys and girls from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“This year, we are also taking new shoe donations,” she said.

F.I.S.H. is asking for youth size 13 up to size 5 or 6.

Gift cards are also provided, so the children can pick out something, like their own backpack.

“So the parents and the children can have one aspect that’s their own,” Espinoza said. “We think a backpack is nice and personal — and the experience of going and picking it out on their own.”

The community is encouraged to donate some items before the end of the drive.

“We have so many kids in need. They want to do well, they want to perform,” she said. “We want to help our neighbors by helping our littlest neighbors in the community be successful in school.”

Distribution of the supplies will take place on July 26-30 at the Walk-In Center.

Families in need of supplies can contact F.I.S.H. at 239-472-4775.

Financial assistance for specialized equipment, scientific calculators, SAT prep books, instruments, clothing and school uniforms is also available to those showing a need. Call F.I.S.H. for details.

“We take care of those special items as well,” Espinoza said.

F.I.S.H. is seeking volunteers to help pack up the items on July 22-23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Walk-In Center. For information about volunteering, contact Jennifer Pagano at 239-472-4775.

For more information on donations, call Espinoza at 239-472-4775.