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FISH organization gets new president

Higgins passing reins to Vaughan

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Feb 10, 2021

pleblanc@breezenewspapers.com

According to Dianne Higgins, president of FISH (Fellow Islanders Sending Help), the very difficulties presented by year 2020 were in part responsible for the connectivity of the organization.

“This year it was outstanding,” Higgins said of the various partnerships in events, “particularly with our Basket Brigades. Certainly people gave us nice donations throughout the year but at the school Clothes for Kids and especially at Christmastime it was amazing.”

Higgins said the Basket Brigade committee, to the best of her knowledge, did not have to buy one toy for the 238 children, and 92 families they were able to serve this past Christmas. There were also roughly a dozen seniors who participated.

“The best I can say is, thank you to everyone,” said Higgins.

Higgins, who is moving from Pine Island, is passing the FISH leadership reins to Vice President Guy Vaughan. The organization will run the same way it has for the past 30 years, as she said, the organization is not made up of any one person, but rather many caring people who help the island. Higgins wants people to be aware that the organization had to discontinue its transportation services as of last spring due to COVID restrictions, now she said they have taken clients, who have no available transportation, to places such as the food pantry, on a limited basis, but overall a contact-less exchange is best.

“If a client was to call the FISH phone and ask for help with that, rather than take the client, we would go to the pantry and pick up their order,” said Higgins. “We would pick up the order at the food pantry and deliver it to the home, and then it’s contact-less. The food pantry loads the car, and then the FISH volunteer unloads the groceries by the door of the client, so they can then come out and get the groceries.”

Once the pandemic restrictions have passed and the organization feels comfortable again, they plan to resume their transportation services. They’ve also had to discontinue respite services with very few exceptions. Higgins said there has been a surprising number of mobility equipment out on loan, likely due to people opting for elective surgery.

“We are still very viable here at FISH,” said Higgins. “Once in a while people tell us they didn’t know FISH was still around, so we like to remind people that we are. We don’t shout from the rooftops too often, but we certainly want to remind people that we are still a big part of the community.”

While there are no term limits for the president of FISH in the current bylaws, Vaughan pointed out that any sitting president who can no longer serve has the option of letting the organization know.

“Dianne has done an exemplary job in every aspect,” said Vaughan of his predecessor, “in going forward what we want is business as usual. We can always improve our processes but the product we put out there is incredible — that we’re able to help so many people, especially in a time with so much chaos. There’s been very little face-to-face contact, for instance the Basket Brigade did not meet to wrap the presents but we got presents to everybody, and we gave them wrapping paper if they needed it. The goals are to be able to sustain … not maintain, but to sustain the level of services that we can provide and continue to improve on those services by figuring out the best practices. Obviously we couldn’t predict COVID.

“I’m so looking forward to staying a part of this incredible organization, he continued. “If there’s one more goal in mind, it’s that I find 50 more volunteers tomorrow. The great thing about FISH is that everyone can be plugged in somewhere.”

Higgins said she will still stay connected off-island as FISH has not been face-to-face with any clients since last spring and after all, she still has a phone.

“I learned long ago that I am not irreplaceable,” said Higgins. “There are many people in our organization that could fulfill, not only the volunteer aspects, but also the aspects of an officer. That’s why we look forward to continuing our service here.”