Helping Neighbors: Starting Over With Assistance From F.I.S.H.
Being a mom is not an easy task. Being a single mom with a toddler and an infant can have its challenges. Parenting is hard, with or without a partner. You may not always have the choice when it comes to finding yourself suddenly single parenting, but you do have a choice in how you approach your new life.
Donna, a young vibrant woman with a two-year old and an eight-month old, realized that, for her husband, the reality of being a father was not as appealing as the dream of being a father. When their two children were 22-months and 6 months-old, Donna’s husband decided to backpack the world, without his family. The split literally happened overnight, leaving Donna no time to prepare and without a home for her family. Reality hit, and it was hard. Donna had tough choices to make. “I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I only knew that I needed to care for my children and be strong . . . so I called a friend and stayed with her while searching for a second job,” states Donna. “To be honest, the beginning was one of the most difficult times I can remember. It was a blur of daily panic attacks and crying on my friend’s shoulder at night after my children were asleep.”
“When my life suddenly changed I was devastated. After a few weeks, though, I realized it was okay to ask for help,” she continues. Donna was introduced to FISH by a friend of a friend, and she made an appointment to talk with Case Manager Nitza Lopez to discuss assistance. Immediately, Donna joined the Food Pantry Program to defray food costs and signed up for SNAP. She was introduced to additional employment opportunities and learned of the youth scholarship program that could assist with pre-school tuition for her 2-year old. “I admit, I was frightened. I never imagined leaving my baby with a friend while I worked, and sending my toddler to full time daycare,” says Donna.
Donna pushed through her fear, began her second job and enrolled her daughter in daycare. She has since reported that her toddler is very happy at daycare, loves her teachers, and is doing well. “I cried like a baby the day I dropped her off for the first time,” says Donna. “But I’m so thankful to be able to work to take care of her and her brother. I couldn’t have done it without your [FISH’s] help; I can’t say thank you enough. I’m forever grateful.”
Donna is currently seeking housing for her family and hopes to remain on or close to Sanibel. She has hired a full time babysitter for her young son, and her daughter continues to thrive in daycare. In the future, Donna’s hope is to advance in her employment so that we can work just one job, allowing her to spend more quality time with her children. “If I had to go back in time, I wouldn’t do anything different, states Donna. “Single parenting made me a stronger, better mother. It made me make hard choices and has put me on the path to self-sufficiency.”
If you are not all that familiar with the F.I.S.H. OF SANCAP organization, please call for a tour so you can meet their staff and see, first hand, how the agency works to help our neighbors. F.I.S.H. is the only Human Services Organization on Sanibel and Captiva, and for 37 years, FISH has been a "neighbors helping neighbors" organization offering a wide range of human services. To learn more about the programs and services of FISH, please contact Maggi Feiner, President & CEO at (239) 472-4775 or visit their website at www.fishofsancap.org