FISH Disaster Administrative Director Manuela Martinez and Volunteers Jim and Joan Bajek Named Finalists

The Annual ENPYs – Excellence in Nonprofit Performance Yearly awards – will feature FISH Disaster Administrative Director Manuela Martinez and FISH volunteers Jim and Joan Bajek as finalists. Nominations for Martinez — Next Generation Award — and the Bajek team — Nonprofit Volunteer of the Year Award — were recently accepted by The Community Foundation who hosts the annual awards and received a record number of nominations. Martinez and Bajek were included in the group of 33 finalists.

The Next Generation Award will go to a dynamic leader who is an 18-35 year old staff member (part time or full-time) working for a nonprofit organization. Since joining FISH, Manuela Martinez has been incredibly driven and committed to providing the best of FISH social services to everyone she encounters. Her core values of equality, compassion, inclusiveness and respect shine through in all projects she manages as she sets the direction for programs and motivates others to produce results. As soon as Hurricane Ian hit, Manuela pivoted her role to become one of the first ‘boots on the ground’ FISH staff members and now oversees the FISH long term recovery program which provides assistance of all kinds for survivors of Hurricane Ian.  She has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the FISH long term recovery program. From drywall distribution events to community holiday gatherings, Manuela works around the clock to build relationships and partnerships that will get the job done. She attends meetings and trainings to learn how to bridge the gap for unmet needs in our community and has creatively found solutions to disaster-related problems so that residents and the islands workforce can begin recovery. Working closely with Maria Espinoza, FISH Executive Director, Manuela has been instrumental in providing help to survivors of Hurricane Ian.

Joan and Jim Bajek, nominated for the Nonprofit Volunteer of the Year Award honors a volunteer(s) who goes above and beyond to support the objectives of an organization to enhance its ability to deliver on its mission for maximum impact on the community and the lives of those it serves. Jim and Joan note that volunteering has always been part of their lives. Together, they try to make the community a better place for all. When they moved to Sanibel a little over 6 years ago they had many volunteering choices. FISH caught their attention because of the number of different programs that help those in need. While they started in the food pantry, they’ve expanded their volunteerism to picking up food donated by the Midwest Food Bank, delivering meals, providing medical equipment and transporting islanders to medical appointments, for banking and other local errands. Although their home was damaged, as soon as the causeway was repaired and vehicles allowed, they once again began consistently volunteering by picking up critical items – often using their own vehicle — and assisting in every way they could. Jim and Joan volunteered for any program that needed it and helped problem solve the layout and structure of the very important food distribution and holiday gatherings, both of which were incredibly meaningful to island residents, the workforce, cleanup crews, city employees, emergency management and more. They were also instrumental in offering assistance and ideas for laying out the food pantry once FISH was able to open their building up for food storage purposes.

“Manuela contributes a crucial role in helping FISH honor our mission. She is committed to making a positive impact within the community through her leadership in her role at FISH. She listens to those she’s serving, those she works with, and those she is supervised by to create an environment where FISH programs, and the FISH mission, can thrive,” says Maria Espinoza, FISH Executive Director. “The Bajeks are masters of moving parts who take initiative to work with other volunteers to get the job done. They always steps in where and when needed and coordinate with others to make each and every effort a success,” continues Espinoza.  “We are honored to work with them in our efforts to assist our neighbors.”

The ENPY Awards highlighting the efforts of Southwest Florida nonprofits and the accomplishments of nonprofit leaders will collectively be recognized on Thursday, September 28, 2023 where the winners will be announced. The event will also be aired on a special live televised broadcast  across Southwest Florida and watched around the world by live streaming at