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Pine Island FISH turns in banner year

February 3, 2016
By ED FRANKS ( , Pine Island Eagle

For Pine Island FISH (Fellow Islanders Sending Help), 2015 was its most successful year.

"We outdid ourselves this year," FISH?President Dianne Higgins said. "FISH answered and assisted a total of 1,396 calls and provided more than $54,300 in emergency financial assistance to 190 clients. This assistance was for rent (75 clients), help with utility bills (72 clients), prescriptions and other necessaries (43 clients)."

FISH was created in the early 1980s by a group of islanders to provide transportation for those no longer able to drive. They also provided respite for caretakers, ran errands and otherwise assisted islanders in need.

"In those early days, contacts were made with local churches, the Chamber of Commerce and organizations such as the Kiwanis, VFW and hobby clubs to share information about the planned FISH," Higgins said. "The first meetings were held in 1986. We have come a long way since then."

In 2015, FISH loaned people in need over 300 pieces of mobility equipment and volunteers logged many hours providing non-emergency transportation for island residents for doctors' visits and essential shopping/errands. FISH also matched donors with clients for specialized equipment such as hospital beds and scooters.

FISH is also the lead agency for Basket Brigades, spending more than $32,000 for in-need families/seniors/children.

"We are also partnering with the Beacon of H.O.P.E. for 2015 and the Students Achieving Success (SAS) after school and summer camp food programs," Higgins said. "We provided new school clothes for 180 children, Winn-Dixie gift cards at Christmas, new toys for 90 families with 215 children at Christmas and Christmas baskets for 15 seniors/singles/couples, assisted by the Matlacha Hookers."

There is never a charge for any FISH service and services are provided regardless of the economic status of clients, except for financial assistance.

Currently, the organization has more than 70 members; about 40 of which return to the "northern climes" during the summer season. However, FISH continues to recruit new members to the organization. Members meet monthly and the board of directors quarterly or as needed to discuss financial matters and set organization policy. Officers elected at the February 2015 board meeting were Higgins; Margery Vitch, vice president; Mary Jo Roane, treasurer/registered agent; and Carol Elrod, secretary.

"We work closely with other organizations on the island, such as the Beacon of H.O.P.E.and Pantry, to assure the needs of our islanders are met in these difficult economic times," Higgins said.

In order to expand its message into the electronic age, FISH has developed a website, ,to bring information to both volunteers and interested potential volunteers and donors.

The FISH Tales will be updated on a yearly basis to include the group's latest advances and accomplishments.



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