FISH OF SANCAP 2023 Community Impact

FISH OF SANCAP, the islands only wrap-around human service organization, is a ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ organization built on offering simple acts of kindness to neighbors in need. Since its inception over 40 years ago, the organization is filling the gaps for the residents and workforce of Sanibel and Captiva. As the neighborhood agency has grown with the years, their scope of service has evolved and broadened with the community it serves, including providing Long-Term Recovery services to survivors of Hurricane Ian.

The journey home after Hurricane Ian has been long and challenging for everyone. FISH continues to navigate obstacles and search for new ways to help the island community move forward. In addition to disaster recovery, FISH continues to offer programs representing their four major pillars – Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands. From their food pantry, educational workshops, scholarships, and senior programs for dignified aging-in-place, to providing emergency help with expenses and disaster relief, FISH truly offers something for everyone.

FISH impacted the lives of many island residents through their programs, but perhaps one of the biggest successes the organization saw in 2023 was the POD furniture distribution in partnership with United Way Gifts In-kind. The program, available to Sanibel and Captiva Island residents and workforce, distributes furnishings, appliances, doors, windows and more to those in need on the islands. “We are pleased to partner with United Way to offer this valuable program to our community members, many of which lost everything due to Hurricane Ian,” says Maria Espinoza, Executive Director, FISH. “This program helps alleviate the financial pressure and emotional stress for community members who need to replace everything, from smaller items like dishes and utensils to larger furnishings, windows and doors. It’s a very meaningful program and our community appreciates each month.” In 2023, FISH distributed 1060 pieces of furniture to Ian survivors.

In addition to this success, in 2023, FISH answered over 24,000 service requests for island neighbors. They are proud to report 86% of every dollar spent went to FISH programming.  Other important impacts include:

  • 5,486 visits to the Food Pantry and 896 holiday food baskets
  • 2,983 reassurance calls to seniors and homebound islanders
  • FISH Social Services provided 5740 instances of case management
  • Seniors and homebound residents received 2983 reassurance calls and 208 ‘smile boxes’
  • Hurricane recovery services and supplies totaled 4018 instances and 745 hurricane preparedness packets were distributed
  • 285 children received holiday toy assistance and 217 children received much needed school supplies
  • FISH volunteers provided 10,603 hours of service equating to an impressive $311,834 and drove 24,000 miles on behalf of FISH and community members

“The islands’ residents and workforce report ongoing struggles with repairs to their homes, replacing livelihoods, emotional and behavioral health and remaining financially stable, particularly since Ian,” continues Espinoza.

Espinoza oversees the programs and strategic plans of the organization, supports the FISH team and serves as the point of contact for the organization within the broader community. She continues to spearhead the efforts of the FISH Long-Term Recovery program, joining many local, regional and state coalitions and groups to assist survivor’s with recovery from the state’s costliest natural disaster and one of the most impactful storms in US history. She also serves as Vice Chair of the Lee County Long Term Recovery Group.

“In addition to our response to Hurricane Ian, FISH is actively meeting the needs of the community even during blue skies. As we have for over 40 years, FISH remains committed to the betterment of the islands and the southwest Florida community by assisting one neighbor at a time,” continues Espinoza.