FISH OF SANCAP Helps Family Through Disaster, Medical Struggles

FISH OF SANCAP continues to help residents and the workforce of Sanibel and Captiva by providing long-term disaster recovery assistance. “As a long-term recovery agency, we can provide financial assistance, disaster case management, emotional well-bring resources and more as it relates to survivors’ recovery from Ian,” said Maria Espinoza, Executive Director. “Additionally, we continue to offer traditional programs focused on our four major pillars – Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands to ensure no need goes unmet. If there’s something we cannot provide, we have the resources through our expansive network to help fill the gap.”

Recently, a married couple with seven children visited FISH to request financial and food assistance. The couple, who prefer not to use their real names for privacy reasons, both lost their livelihoods and had damage to their home from Hurricane Ian. Says Social Service Director Nitza Lopez, “This was a challenging case with many moving parts, particularly with the children ranging from infant to high school ages. It’s heartbreaking to hear their story yet heartwarming to provide assistance and see the family recover.”

The husband – Bill – who worked on Sanibel, and his wife – Sandy – who worked in Fort Myers, both lost their jobs after Ian. Fortunately Sandy was able to return to her position after a few months, once repairs were complete at her place of business. Unfortunately, Bill suffered a cardiac emergency that required surgery and spent nearly two months in the hospital.

During his hospital stay Sandy worked double shifts in order to survive. She called upon her mother – Barbara – to help with the children and temporarily moved her in to provide childcare and help with the shopping, cooking and cleaning. “It was difficult for Barbara from a transportation standpoint alone, as the school-age children needed to be in different schools scattered across the county. Bus transportation was not an option as the majority of the children attended the before and after care programs so Sandy could work,” continues Lopez. “Thankfully the family was able to work out a ride share situation, which helped ease the transportation and logistics burden.”

Although Sandy was working as many hours as she could and her oldest daughter contributed some of her employment pay, the family got behind on rent and feared they would be evicted. Bill, still recovering, had been out of work for over three months and could not return without physician clearance. The family was referred to FISH through a friend and immediately made an appointment to talk with the organization.

“After meeting with Barbara, learning of her family’s struggles and completing our intake process, we were able to assist with two months’ rent and, through collaboration with United Way, they became eligible for an extra month of rent assistance,” reports Lopez. The family also began using the food pantry and received school supplies from the back-to-school program. FISH provided additional resources for emotional and medical support. “I honestly don’t know where we’d be without assistance from FISH,” said Sandy. “I feel like FISH is a part of my family now. Thank you so much for everything.”

While Bill and Sandy are moving forward through their disaster and medical struggles, many residents and island workforce members continue to suffer. FISH provides long-term disaster recovery assistance for survivors that have a Sanibel or Captiva connection. The organization is answering all requests for assistance including emergency financial assistance, providing rebuilding supplies and assisting with medical and mental health referrals and resources.


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