FISH OF SANCAP, a human service ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ organization, creates communities where all people have the support they need to thrive. FISH has been ground zero for the catastrophic Hurricane Ian, offering all types of services to those in need.
Regina Brown, whose name has been changed for privacy purposes, used the FISH Food Pantry prior to Hurricane Ian, when she first began working on the island. “Regina is a single mother with no relatives close by and just a few friends, since she is relatively new to our community,” says Nitza Lopez, Social Services Director. “She reached out to FISH in June 2022 requesting food services for her family. Although her Sanibel housecleaning business was doing okay, her workload was beginning to slow down for the summer season. With her daughter on school break, Regina was having difficulty affording extra meals and snacks.”
Through conversation and an intake meeting with FISH, Regina signed up for the food pantry program and the children’s backpack program which she notes was of great assistance. “Help from the food pantry allowed our family eat healthy meals while cutting down on grocery bills, and I finally felt like I was getting ahead of my expenses,” says Regina.
Hurricane Ian changed everything for Regina and her family, and she once again reached out to FISH for disaster relief assistance. The home she was renting was destroyed, and the family relocated to a friend’s home, where Regina and her daughter shared a small room. “Due to the dreaded Hurricane Ian, work has dropped a lot; this has affected me emotionally and economically. I cannot afford the high rents in the area, so had no other option but to call upon a friend for help.”
Working together to map out a life plan, Nitza Lopez (FISH) and Regina made a list of immediate needs and goals for the future. Regina assisted with hurricane cleanup which helped to bring in additional income immediately after Ian. As island residents began to return to their homes, her customers once again requested cleaning services. She also began offering services in Fort Myers on weekends and would bring her daughter with her, due to lack of childcare. Nitza researched and provided resources for affordable housing, and Regina and her daughter were able to move into their own apartment in April 2023. As summer approached, Regina requested assistance with the high cost of summer camp so she could continue working while her daughter was being cared for in a safe, enriching program.
“The FISH team helped me with a summer camp scholarship for my daughter, for which I will always be grateful,” writes Regina in a heartfelt note to FISH. “I thank you all very much for your great heart and help; without this scholarship, my daughter would not have been able to attend any summer camp, and I would not have been able to work. FISH is a great help to people who really need it, and they made my girl’s dream come true. Thanks to this help, I have been working most weekdays on Sanibel and can pay my rent and utilities.” Regina continues with the pantry and food backpack program to help offset grocery expenses and is looking forward to increasing her customer base as folks continue to return home to Sanibel. In addition to their Long Term Recovery program, FISH continues to offer programs representing their four major pillars – Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands. For those interested in learning more about FISH, please visit their website and social media pages to see firsthand how the agency works to better the community and particularly their response to the Ian disaster.