With summer under way, a local charitable organization finds itself shorthanded after many of its volunteers left the island.
Friends in Service Here (FISH) is looking for volunteers to help with the myriad of services it performs for visitors and residents of Sanibel and Captiva. According to Blanaid Colley, vice president of FISH, the organization loses roughly two-thirds of its 200 volunteers during the summer when they head north.
The organization also has trouble keeping its food pantry stocked for families in need.
"Our clients stay on the island after the volunteers leave and they need help," Colley said. "It puts pressure on those volunteers who live on the island."
Colley said among the areas where they need the most help are for drivers to take those who need a ride to doctors' appointments or other important business off the island.
Colley said she has received help from high school students who packed supplies for the group's backpack program and work at the pantry.
"Fortunately, we have a generous community that comes together when we need them," Colley said. "But it gets tough because employers cut workers hours in the summer and these families have trouble keeping food on the table. As the snowbirds leave the island, the pickings at the pantry get scarce
and the regular food drives can't keep up with demand."
Again its up to the community to keep things open.
"It's tough keeping it open and we have a difficult time getting proteins," Colley said. "We get help from local supermarkets and a vacation rental company."
Colley said FISH gets desperate between now and November, with the biggest volunteer shortage occurring in September, when some restaurants close. Only when the snowbirds return does volunteerism and food donations improve.
FISH served more than 750 clients in 2011, providing transportation for medical appointments, delivering hot meals, loaned medical equipment, made daily reassurance phone calls, visiting the housebound, assisting elderly and disabled with hurricane preparedness and more.
The mission of FISH is to lend a helping hand to those in need who live, work or visit Sanibel and Captiva by providing a number of free services to enhance the quality of life for all who request help.
For those able to volunteer or make a food or monetary donation, contact FISH at 472-4775 or online www.fishofsanibel.com.