provided to The Santiva Chronicle
FISH of SANCAP volunteers allow for the more than 30 programs and services offered by the island’s only wrap-around human services organization founded 40 years ago as neighbors helping neighbors. But it’s the “end of season,” a time when nearly half of FISH volunteers leave the island until October.
“We witness our volunteers, many of whom are ‘snowbirds,’ return to their northern homes beginning in late April,” said FISH Executive Maria Espinoza. “Volunteers are the essence of our organization. We couldn’t exist without the people who share their time and hearts with us and our community.”
Espinoza explained volunteers help with everything from delivering meals and assembling backpacks and smile boxes to answering phones, stocking shelves, event planning and grocery shopping. “And we appreciate all of it,” exclaimed Espinoza. “In 2021, volunteers provided more than 5,800 hours of service and drove more than 22,000 miles on behalf of FISH and our neighbors.”
Jenny Rosenberg is one of those volunteers who wanted to give back while experiencing FISH and learn about the organization. She began volunteering in January in the Food Pantry, which stays open throughout the year. Rosenberg said she also wants to have a more personal connection with Sanibel.
“I’m hoping to widen my circle beyond my neighbors, yoga and swim friends since moving here in 2019 with my husband,” she said. And Rosenberg has become fast friends with a fellow pantry volunteer Kristin Malone. “We try to catch up on the previous month of life while stocking and organizing food products during our shift,” she said. “Here’s to new friends. I’m so grateful.”
Malone is equally as grateful and says she looks forward to her volunteer time in the FISH Food Pantry. “I feel so fortunate to be down here on Sanibel,” said Malone. “I volunteer up north, but felt the need to give back to this beautiful island. It’s a special place. And the first time I volunteered, I met Jenny (Rosenberg). We just connected. We have a lot in common and I always look forward to our shift.”
“It’s refreshing to see our volunteers, new and tenured, work together and develop a bond, enjoy new experiences and grow friendships as they give their time and talent,” said FISH Operations and Volunteer Manager Kim Oullette. “How fortunate are well all that individuals who decided to volunteer are able to create a friendship and comradery beyond their time spent at FISH.”
When volunteers return north, the staff at FISH get creative and the year-around volunteers work hard to bridge the gap in getting things done. “Although it may take us a little longer to find a phone duty or Walk-in Center volunteer, we always find a way to get the jobs done,” said Espinoza. “Our year-around volunteers really go above and beyond to fill the gaps.”
FISH volunteers are full and part time residents, retired and working, with limited, flexible or open availability. There are always opportunities to become involved and a variety of them for a good chance to find a perfect fit. All new volunteers are trained in the area or areas of interest and placed with a more seasoned volunteer.
Volunteer applications are available on the FISH website or learn more by contacting the Walk-in Center at 239-472-4775.