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Guest Commentary: Pine Island FISH organization celebrates more than 32 years of island services

February 27, 2019
By Diane Higgins , Pine Island Eagle


Pine Island FISH (Fellow Islanders Sending Help) was established as a formal organization in January 1987 to provide rides to fellow islanders that did not have any other means of transportation. Since that time, our services have expanded and in January 2019 we celebrated more than 32 years of serving the residents of Greater Pine Island. Our service calls have increased from 349 in 1988 to MORE THAN 1300 in 2018 and are on track to answer about the same number in 2019.

Mission & Services Provided:

FISH is a nonprofit (501c3), nonprofessional association of volunteers, organized for the purpose of making available and rendering the fullest possible range of neighborly, caring, unpaid and nonprofessional assistance to those persons who request help.

Current services provided by the organization are outlined below:

- Non-emergency transportation: to medical facilities, grocery store, pharmacy, bank, etc. to individuals with no other access to transportation.

- Mobility Equipment to lend: Wheelchairs, walkers, etc.

- Special Needs: emergency financial assistance to qualified clients for rent, utilities, medical, etc.

- Respite: Relief to non-paid, primary caregivers for approximately 4 hours, once a week.

- In-Touch: Contact with homebound individuals either by phone or home visits.

- Lead Agency in the Pine Island "Basket Brigade" Program.

- Christmas Basket Brigade was established in 1991 and provides gifts to children/seniors and food gift cards to families

- School Clothes for Kids was established in 2000 and provides new clothes and shoes for first 2 days of school

- Partner with PILOT (Pine Island Leaders of Tomorrow) for after school and summer camp food programs

Organization Structure:

The FISH organization has approximately 55 active volunteer members; there are no paid employees. We maintain no physical presence and all members work out of their homes. There is never a fee for our services; all transportation costs are borne by the drivers and we lend our equipment and services for free.

FISH does no active fund raising of its own and relies solely on the generosity of island/area individuals, organizations, foundations and churches to provide the funding that we have shared with fellow islanders in need over these many years.

All monies received by the organization are directed back to the betterment of the residents of greater Pine Island.

2018 Accomplishments:

- Answered and assisted more than 1,300 calls

- Provided more than $30,700 in emergency financial assistance to 97 clients:

- Rent assistance for 43 clients

- Utility bill assistance for 25 clients

- Prescription/other necessary bills assistance for 29 clients

- Loaned people in need over 400 pieces of mobility equipment

- Our volunteers logged many hours providing non-emergency transportation for island residents for doctors' visits and essential shopping/errands.

- Matched donors with clients for specialized equipment such as hospital beds and scooters

- Lead agency for Basket Brigades; spending more than $21,032 for in-need Families/Seniors/Children:

- Partner with PILOT (Pine Island Leaders of Tomorrow) after school and summer camp food programs

- New school clothes for 160 children

- Provided Winn-Dixie gift cards at Christmas

- New toys for 80 families with 207 children at Christmas

- Christmas Baskets for 6 seniors/singles/couples (assisted by the Matlacha Hookers)

- Partner with Pine Island Elemen-tary for field trip transportation/fees

Additional Community

Contributions in 2018:

In 2018, we have expanded our partnerships to include assistance with the PIE school field trips, PILOT summer camp field trips, Pine Island Food Pantry personal supplies program, and PILOT after school and summer camp food programs. In addition, we provided 160 children with new school clothes/shoes for the first 2 days of school.

The Pine Island FISH organization looks forward to continuing its service to area residents in 2019 and beyond. We plan to do that with the help of our valued volunteers and the generosity our area individuals, organizations, foundations and churches. Should you like to become a volunteer, you can download an application from our website or attend one of our monthly member meetings on the first Thursday of the month at 3 pm in the Pine Island United Methodist Church. If you would like to donate to our island services, you can forward funds to Pine Island FISH, Inc., P.O. Box 357, Matlacha, FL 33993 or call 239-283-4442.

Diane Higgins is president of Pine Island FISH



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