Thanks to everyone for participating in the first Back to School Fair, which featured the distribution of the 22nd annual FISH Clothing for Kids program of clothing and gym shoes for students whose families anticipate having difficulty in providing new items for the 2022-2023 school year. At total of 219 children were registered for the program this year.
This year the program was expanded to a Back to School Fair format featuring many health and wellness products and services available in SWFL to our island children. In addition to receiving their clothing and gift cards, each child received hygiene products, including dental kits from Riverside Dental and Florida KidCare with additional resource information in their bag.
Families were encouraged to bring their kids and walk through the stations with the opportunity for free immunizations and hearing and eye checks from the State of Florida Department of Health in Lee County; learn about a variety of services and resources from Lee Health and Golisano Children’s Hospital of SW Florida including Injury Prevention and Healthy Life Center navigation for physician appointments; free bicycle helmets from the Blue Zone Project of SWFL, school supplies and a vitals health check from the Matlacha Pine Island Fire Department, and stickers and safety information from Reunite with Lee County United Way and the Lee County Sherriff’s Community Response Unit. In addition, the Pine Island Library was offering free books and library card sign up, Beacon of Hope shared their services, Pine Island United Methodist Church showcased their free Kid’s Clothing Room and signups for Vacation Bible School and the Pine Island Elementary Backpack program, along with fresh produce and food boxes were on hand for all families to pick up.
Karen Durand, FISH Basket Brigade Chair, said she would like to thank the many islanders and corporate sponsors who donated and adopted children in this year’s program. With a 30% increase in clothing and shoe requests versus last year, it is only with the continued generosity of our islanders that we can continue to implement this program, year after year. She further stated, “the expanded program was the result of the Pine Island FISH Board asking, ‘what else’ can we do to help prepare our children for school, in addition to clothing and shoes. From there it was a matter of identifying and contacting available resources in SWFL. We were thrilled with the response, much of which was coordinated by the Lee Health Community Benefit Outreach Department and our island partners. This year’s expanded program was very well received by both our clients and participating agencies. With everyone excited to come back next year and potentially participate in additional Basket Brigade programming this fall, we see many opportunities to offer additional resources to our islanders moving forward.”