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F.I.S.H. provides 152 children with new school clothes

August 8, 2012
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

This year 152 children received two tops, two bottoms and a package of underwear, as well as a $25 gift card to Payless Shoe Store, for the first day of school through the Fellow Islanders Sending Help (F.I.S.H.) program.

Last year, F.I.S.H. was able to provide clothing for 139 youngsters.

"We had more kiddos this year," Mary Jo Roane said.

The program, which began 13 years ago, provided assistance to 35 kids the first year because it was so new to the island.

"Every year it goes up," Peg Harmon said about the number of kids they help.

The idea to start the program stemmed from Harmon's son Patrick, who was the program manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Roane said Patrick urged them to start the program because kids sometimes have to wear clothes that do not fit right or have seen better days, which can sometimes cause problems.

"It helps build their self-esteem," Roane said of wearing new clothes to school on the first day. "It makes them feel like everyone else."

Roane said the youngsters who are in need are identified by their parents, or sometimes a neighbor or caregiver. She said they will call and say you might want to check with so and so because they might need a little hand up.

"It is so much fun," Roane said about delivering the clothes. "We get hugs from the parent there have been tears. It's definitely gratifying."

She said just to see the smiles on the parents' and youngsters' faces makes you feel good.

"We always tell them it is not F.I.S.H., it is the island," that makes it possible to give clothing to their kids, Roane said.

The program is made possible, she said, because a lot of individuals and organizations adopt some of the kids to provide clothing for them.

"If not adopted, we go out and purchase the items for them," Roane said. "The people that adopt have as much fun as the kids do getting the nice, new clothes for school."

The child's name, age and size and where they will be attending school is given at the beginning of the process to ensure the youngsters have what they need for school. Roane said they ask for the school to make sure clothes are purchased according to the dress code.

Those who adopted the child only know the youngsters' first name and what size they need.

"It is very individualized," she said.

Harmon said she wanted to thank everybody who contributed in anyway to help make this year a success.

"What a remarkable community we have," she said.

Harmon said she also wanted to give a special thanks to Sandra Loredo for all the help she provided this year with delivering clothes.

"Without her I don't know what we would do," she said, due to her being bilingual. "We would be kind of lost without her."



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