"It's the most wonderful time of the year" is a familiar verse of a song that rings true to some ears during the holiday season. At F.I.S.H. (Friends In Service Here), however, this time of year isn't that easy for many clients.
Picture yourself - a woman in her mid-30s who rents and works on Sanibel with an 8-year-old daughter. Prior to the divorce, you and your former husband owned a home and a business. Both were lost due to the tough economy over the past few years and the cost of the divorce. You pursued the divorce after years of physical and emotional abuse.
After renting a small apartment and continuing to work in a full time clerical position on island, your hours begin to be cut due to a decrease in office business. You drop from 40 to 30 hours weekly and find it has become a choice to either buy food for you and your daughter or to pay your electric bill and some of the other monthly bills.
FISH of Sanibel executive director Maggi Feiner checks out the empty freezers where frozen vegetables and meats are kept to ease the burden on Sanibel families in need of assistance this holiday season.
A friend told you about FISH, contemplating whether to go to ask for help because you've never had to ask for help before. You lived on two incomes before all this and were financially stable. You sit and swallow your pride and realize help is what you need and you cannot waste any more time.
On arrival at the FISH Walk-In Center, you are greeted by a reassuring face of a kind volunteer who says a social worker will be right with you. The social worker listens to your plight and assists you with the agency's intake process, which includes providing three months of paycheck stubs, three months of all bank records, all financial income and expenditure records, copies of tax returns for the past two years, and records of all utilities, additional monthly bills and lease information.
You meet with the social worker for about two hours during which time you cry and share what you have been going through. She listens and provides reassurance regarding your situation. She explains that FISH has a food pantry that can be used as a supplement to grocery shopping when a family is in need of food. She talks about a women's empowerment group and about budgeting classes at the Walk-In Center.
Things are really starting to come together and you feel they offer so much that could really help your family. You tell her that you would like to sign up for the programs and for food from the pantry. You then begin your journey knowing there is an agency that will be walking by your side.
FISH is a nonprofit agency that has been in existence for more than 30 years and relies fully on donations to provide human service assistance to individuals and families who reside or work on the islands.
The Walk-In Center, 1630-B Periwinkle Way, is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
For more information or to make a tax-deductible donation call 472-4775.