provided to The Santiva Chronicle
Carmen Perez, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, is a mother working more than 50 hours per week on Sanibel. She moved with her husband to Fort Myers, where he worked in construction and she picked up work as a housekeeper. While they didn’t have disposable income, the couple could pay their bills and feed their children. However, things became turbulent between Carmen and her husband. That is when she reached out to FISH for help.
Upon meeting with FISH Social Services Director Nitza Lopez, Carmen told her she felt “broken” after many personal hardships and an abusive relationship. Lopez immediately started the process of helping Carmen and her children. She first reached out to ACT, a nonprofit working with families involved in domestic violence, then enrolled the family in the FISH food pantry to make sure their basic needs were met.
FISH assisted with rent and the first month of utilities for an apartment of their own. The children receive food backpacks weekly and they had a bright holiday season through the holiday food baskets and adopt-a-family program.
Carmen is working hard at long-term self sufficiency through education. Even though she works full time, Carmen visits FISH twice each week for language classes to improve her English and progress in her career ambition to be a computer technician. Carmen’s children also receive tutoring assistance through FISH.
“Cases like Carmen are challenging for so many reasons,” said Lopez. “We have built a connection. I was the first person she shared her story with and we keep in touch on a regular basis. FISH is fortunate to be able to offer so many services to those in crisis. And we’re grateful we can help her through life’s struggles and be a part of her personal and professional growth journey.”
FISH has been assisting island residents and workers like Carmen since 1982 as a neighbors helping neighbors social service organization. Throughout the past 40 years, FISH has grown to offer more than 30 services ranging from food programs and financial assistance to educational workshops and youth programs. There are programs for seniors to prevent isolation and support for aging-in-place and more.
For anyone interested in learning more about FISH, call for a tour to meet staff and see how the agency works to better our community. FISH is the only human services organization on the islands. To learn more about programs and services, contact Executive Director Maria Espinoza at 239-472-4775 or visit the FISH website.