FISH OF SANCAP is Sanibel and Captiva Islands complete wrap around social service organization serving those that live on, work on, or visit the islands. Started over 40 years ago, FISH continues to grow to meet the demands of the community, offering programs ranging from long-term disaster recovery and emergency financial assistance to a food pantry; educational workshops, senior programs and more.
FISH offers something for everyone—if there is not a service in place for unmet needs of community members, they work to meet it through existing and new partnerships. Those receiving services from FISH can be single individuals or families with a single request, while others need care and assistance for a longer period of time.
John Holiday, whose name has been changed for privacy purposes, was a Vietnam veteran and a long time island resident. Holiday lived alone in a small apartment, was unable to work due to his many medical conditions and struggled to make ends meet because of the high cost of treatment, medication and care. He had few friends and very little contact with his sister or children, his only remaining family members.
Holiday became known to FISH several years ago, when a neighbor realized she hadn’t seen him for a while. The neighbor reached out to the landlord and FISH, and a FISH team member and volunteer nurse conducted a home visit where they discovered the high level of assistance Holiday required. When talking with him, FISH representatives noticed Holiday was lethargic and disengaged in conversation. His apartment was untidy and cluttered with old newspapers and clothing, and Holiday mentioned he didn’t have the energy to clean or entertain guests.
Holiday struggled with multiple medical conditions, was barely able to walk, dress or feed himself, and had very little food in his apartment. According to Holiday, he didn’t want to answer the door or leave his house and he hadn’t been outside for nearly a month. Holiday was weak, hungry, confused and angry, and he needed immediate assistance.
Working with medical professionals and the VA Hospital, FISH assisted with transportation and helped offset the cost of a complete physical, medications, an inhaler and a walker. They provided a list of home health providers and helped interview caregivers until they found a gentleman who would provide homebound care services to ensure Holiday’s health and well-being. FISH also provided a weekly cleaning service and worked with the Area Agency on Aging, Lee County Veterans Services and other agencies for additional services and referrals that may help Holiday.
FISH offered the food pantry for groceries and hygiene items, set Holiday up on the Meals-by-FISH plan and scheduled daily morning check-in calls. Knowing Holiday had little savings and was on a fixed income with little money to pay for living expenses, FISH assisted from time to time with the bills Holiday was unable to afford. On occasion, Holiday and his caregiver would attend the Friendly Faces luncheon where they made a few friends who would look in on Holiday when his caregiver needed respite. FISH connected with Holiday’s sister and adult children and was able to reunite the family through occasional FaceTime phone calls.
FISH assisted Holiday for several years with many different services; he and his caregiver became well-known to staff and volunteers. Weekly home visits were established, and FISH volunteers noted while the visits were initially welcomed, over time it became obvious that Holiday did not want visitors.
Holiday’s health began to deteriorate and he was diagnosed with cancer. He had several hospital and rehabilitation stays and his out of state family became more involved as he declined. Although several attempts were made to move him closer to his children, Holiday refused to leave his island home. As he become more ill, he cut off communications with his children, began to refuse services from FISH and others, and didn’t eat the majority of his home delivered meals. Unfortunately, Holiday’s health would never improve, and he was moved into an assisted living facility where he later passed.
“Not all are happy endings,” said Holiday’s sister. “Please know, I remain grateful for all the help and support my brother received from FISH during his last years on Sanibel. Given his medical challenges, he wasn’t always easy to deal with but FISH never stopped trying. I’ll always be grateful for your service.” Holiday’s children, also grateful, noted, “The level of service from FISH was second to none. It was a long roller coaster ride for us and Dad, but he is now at peace. We strongly believe that FISH played a large role in prolonging his life on Sanibel, his special sanctuary, and never gave up on him even when he gave up on himself [and us]. Nitza, Maggi, Maria, the FISH volunteers and others are angels. Thank you for caring, for your never-ending assistance, and for your service to all.”
The FISH team is able to provide care to community members like Holiday through their network of individual donors, grants, and partnerships with organizations and the local business community that provide goods and services on an in-kind basis or at a reduced cost. If you, or someone you know, is in need of service, please contact FISH at (239) 472-4775. FISH’s target population is anyone who lives or works on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, including the most vulnerable senior population. FISH is answering all requests for assistance that include slight asks, such as providing a bicycle to someone who has no transportation, to more significant requests including emergency financial assistance, providing rebuilding supplies and assisting with medical and mental health referrals and resources.