FISH OF SANCAP, the only wrap-around service organization on Sanibel and Captiva, is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. As part of that celebration, they are reflecting the many ‘faces of FISH’ that make their work possible every day, including some of their over 150 volunteers. The organization was founded by a group of island neighbors and today still runs their array of social service programs through the talent and volunteerism of islanders.
“Our volunteers are very much the glue that holds the organization together,” says Kim Ouellette, Operations & Volunteer Manager. “Volunteering connects our community and makes it a better place. Every moment of time given by our volunteers is making a real difference in the lives of those we serve.”
Longstanding FISH volunteers and supporters, Pat and Mike Boris have been with the organization since 2009 and are part of FISH’s ‘glue’—their familiarity with the organization, community, and upbeat attitude is asset to the organization. The couple, who moved to Captiva part time in 2002, planned to work less and enjoy a slower pace more. “As I spent more and more time on Sanibel and Captiva, I was drawn to the neighborly care I found here, a real concern for how people are doing,” recalls Pat. “A friend asked if I knew about FISH and when I said no, she brought me to the walk in center to meet Maggi Feiner and Lyn Kern, both on phones busy with meeting client needs, usually food, job or housing insecurity.” Pat was inspired by the work being done, and immediately offered her service as a FISH volunteer.
Starting as a seasonal volunteer, Pat quickly enlisted the help of her husband Mike, and they began collecting food and delivering meals and equipment while they were ‘on island’. With Pat’s background in nursing, delivering meals to neighbors who are housebound also helped FISH to understand the meal clients’ current situations. She has been able to get to know neighbors on her meal route and when take notice (and action) when something is amiss or if there is a need for additional services.
Known fondly at FISH as Peppy Pat, she has also brought her experience and uplifting attitude to the FISH Walk-In Center and Food Pantry as well as to the go! FISH Celebration, FISH’s annual fundraising event, of which Pat and Mike were Honorary Chairs.
When Pat started in the Pantry during the recession, she greeted neighbors who came in wide-eyed, many for their first visiting the Pantry or experiencing food insecurity. “Many were apologetic for a downturn in their lives and for needing help,” says Pat. FISH notes that asking for help is often the most challenging obstacle to overcome. When working with people, situations can be unique and specific and FISH views every person individually and works to create a plan and safety net of services that best fit their specific situation. Often a visit to FISH is a symptom of a larger underlying or systemic problem in a household. By treating each family who comes to them as the individuals they are and by asking questions, and a compassionate and caring resource, FISH can tailor plans to meet specific needs of a household and move them through a crisis.
Pat, who had a career in healthcare, notes her greatest joy and privilege is to help people stay healthy and that’s what drew her to FISH — helping people at the simplest level with food, healthy safe homes, and a connection to services. “I’ve enjoyed meeting older adults, assessing the safety of their homes, dietary needs, transportation, and reviewing their hurricane preparedness plans,” continues Pat. “Failing eyesight, loss of a driver’s license, and memory impairment factor into a gradual decline that FISH staff and volunteers sometimes see in neighbors’ lives. FISH has the resources to help people live their healthiest lives with no judgement and no shame. Put simply, we are just neighbors helping neighbors.”
“Our volunteers are always modest about the magnitude of assistance they provide and with the time, energy and resources they bring for the greater good of our community,” states Maggi Feiner, President & CEO of FISH. “They truly are the backbone of our organization who deliver our services with heartfelt compassion, often drawing upon their past professional and personal experiences by sharing that knowledge with us and those we serve. We honestly could not do what we do without the help of our volunteers including Pat and Mike.”
FISH is always focused on providing the best services possible, and that’s why the Boris team stays involved. “The people we’ve met here, the clients, the volunteers, and the amazing caring staff that has grown over the years make it all worthwhile,” continues Pat. She notes that the work is never dull, the needs are always there, and compassionate care is the consistent way that makes FISH special, unique and different.
For those interested in becoming involved with FISH as a volunteer, there are many opportunities to begin making a difference in others’ lives. “There are countless ways to help in the community; mine is hands on, meeting who I can when I can. Others are adept at fundraising or advertising. There is a place for every skill at FISH,” says Pat. She notes that FISH recently partnered with the Dubin Center and Interfaith Outreach of San Cap, which Pat is also involved with, to offer services to those dealing with memory impairment or dementia and their caregivers in the form of a monthly memory café at the Sanibel Community House. “I’m grateful for the opportunity be a part of FISH, and that FISH has become a part of me.” For additional information on becoming a FISH volunteer, contact Kim Ouellette, Operations & Volunteer Manager or visit the organization’s website, fishofsancap.org, to download a volunteer application.