Maggi Feiner from F.I.S.H. of Sanibel was surprised and shocked when she won the Best of the Islands Humanitarian Award.
Ever year, islanders vote for their favorite businesses and organizations in the Best of the Islands award program. Votes are cast on ballots found in The Islander and counted by an independent agency before the winners are announced at the annual luncheon.
This year's luncheon was hosted at Sundial Beach Resort and Spa on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
She accepted the Humanitarian Award on behalf of her staff and the hundreds of volunteers who help the community everyday.
"The award really does belong to the staff and the 200 volunteers who give their all, every single day of the year," she said.
F.I.S.H. or Friends in Service Here is an organization that manages a number of programs on the island through a partnership with the United Way. They oversee a food pantry, provide emergency financial assistance for families, organize a backpack program to make sure children get enough food on the weekend, and offer transportation to medical appointment for those who are in need.
Last year, for example, they distributed over 74,500 pounds of food to 223 families, provided $210,367 of emergency assistant for clients, and supplied 1,293 backpacks for 57 children over the weekend.
Feiner said she thinks the public is starting to appreciate the services F.I.S.H. provides for neighbors on the island, and that's probably the reason she earned the award.
"I think it's the organization. I believe that people have come to truly appreciate what F.I.S.H. does for our island neighbors," she said. "The volunteers and staff are educating people on a daily basis and bringing awareness of the actual need."
She started with the organization 13 years ago as a volunteer and later joined the Board of Directors. She served as vice president for one year and as president for four years, before taking on the volunteer role of executive director where she oversees a staff of four and volunteers.
Island residents have utilized F.I.S.H. services for years - now more than ever as the economy recovers from the crash of 2008 - and many of its clients are seasonal workers in the service industry who see their hours cut in the slow season.
"We are making a difference," said Feiner.
F.I.S.H. won Best of the Islands awards in previous years, including Best Organization, and in 2012 their social worker Christine Swiersz won Good Samaritan at the Elaine McLaughlin E-Awards.
The organization hosts many events throughout the year to raise money for their local operations. They are hosting the 10K Race 4 F.I.S.H. on Oct. 19, The Thriller Halloween Party at Sundial Beach Resort and Spa on Nov. 1, and Go F.I.S.H., a major fundraising gala to upgrade and redesign their food pantry on Feb. 9.
For more information on F.I.S.H., visit fishofsanibel.com.