The Friends In Service Here of Sanibel has been helping its community for three decades. To mark this copious milestone, the organization plans to "rock" its 30th anniversary with 30 painted rocks by 30 local artists.
These "Rock of Ages" artwork will be up for bid during a silent auction at an open house under the theme "30 Rocks!" from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at the FISH Walk-In Center. Each rock will be accompanied by items, such as a private airplane ride, renew your wedding vows package, lunch with an artist and studio tour or a round of golf plus lunch at Sanctuary Golf Club and much more.
FISH began revealing the rocks and rock artists in December with the final 10 appearing in the Friday, Jan. 27 edition of the Sanibel-Captiva Islander.
Since it began 30 years ago with six couples who identified a need on Sanibel and Captiva islands, the Friends In Service Here has become the most inclusive human services organization staffed by a group of more than 200 volunteers. Six years ago the non-profit served 136 clients and in 2010 there were more than 950 clients who received the help they needed.
So, what does F.I.S.H. have to offer those who live, work or visit Sanibel and Captiva?
Its traditional services include:
F.I.S.H. 30th Anniversary
5:30 to 7 p.m. Jan. 30
F.I.S.H. Walk-In Center
1630 Periwinkle Way
Non-emergency transport on and off island
Daily hot meals delivered to your doorstep
Temporary loan of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and walkers
Daily reassurance phone calls to individuals living alone
Health care referrals
A Friendly Faces luncheon typically held at George and Wendy's Corner Grill due to its ground-level entrance.
Emergency financial assistance
Holiday meals Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter
Youth summer scholarships
As a 501-c-3 non-profit organization, F.I.S.H. relies heavily on individual donations to keep its doors open and essential services available.
In 2010, more than half ($196,128) of its funding came from individual donors with 36 percent or $132,810 from organizations and grants; while the rest or just 12 percent ($45,084) was generated from events, such as the annual Sanibel Island 10K Race 4 F.I.S.H. And according to Blanaid Colley, FISH vice president, the race is the biggest fundraising event for the organization.
F.I.S.H. hosted its first community fund drive, wrote its first grant application and opened the walk-in center in 2007. The next year, a disciplined intake process was established and the food pantry opened. In 2009, F.I.S.H. moved its walk-in center from The Village Shops to its current location next to Pfeifer Realty Group and became a United Way House. Last year, a licensed clinical social worker was hired and this year the executive director's position was established.
"No one could have foreseen this kind of growth," said part-time office worker Lyn Kern.
Even though F.I.S.H. has a few part-time workers on the payroll, it is mostly staffed by a dedicated group of island volunteers. Through those volunteers in 2010, F.I.S.H. was able to:
Provide $133,475 in emergency financial assistance to island families
Make over 744 daily reassurance phone calls
Drive clients to almost 200 medical related appointments
Deliver 1,487 hot meals to 30 clients
Provide 338 pieces of medical equipment
Distribute 47,000 pounds of food during 1,600 client visits to its food pantry
Help 19 young people with youth summer scholarships
For the past 30 years FISH has been a "neighbors helping neighbors" organization, which is why all "neighbors" are invited to celebrate at the "30 Rocks!" open house at the walk-in center. The money raised from the "Rock of Ages" silent auction will help FISH continue to provide valuable free services to islanders and island visitors for the next 30 years.
If you would like to make a monetary donation or help by donating food to the FISH food pantry, it can be dropped off between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the F.I.S.H. walk-in center, 1630 Periwinkle Way, Unit B. Financial donations can also be made online at www.fishofsanibel.com.