PO Box 357, Matlacha, FL 33933 | info@pineislandfish.org

239-283-4442

Pine Island F.I.S.H. (Fellow Islanders Sending Help)

Background

Pine Island, a place of great natural beauty, is located about 10 miles west of Cape Coral, Florida, and is surrounded by Pine Island Sound, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico. The island is 17 miles long and from 1 to 4  miles wide.  It has no beaches on the Gulf. There are 4 separate communities, all unincorporated, Bokeelia, Pineland, St. James City and  Matlacha. The residents are from all walks of life, ranging from those  with less than a high school education to those with several post-graduated degrees.  Homes may be modest manufactured homes or upscale  structures. The character of Pine Island is largely rural. Primary occupations are still commercial fishing and service industries  (restaurants, grocery stories, banks, pharmacy).  There are no theaters, department stores, big box stores, public transportation facilities or traffic lights. Although there are several doctors and dentists, there is no hospital or medical testing facility. There is one school, Pine  Island Elementary.  Children going to middle and high school must attend  schools in Cape Coral or other surrounding communities. 

Creation of Pine Island FISH - The 1980s

In the early 1980’s, a group of islanders  got together to provide transportation for those no longer able to drive  and to provide respite for those caretakers who needed to run errands.   In Feb. 1986, Lilian Kemph and Betty Elmquist met to talk about the  need for volunteer services on Pine Island.  They continued to talk off  and on during the next 6 months. 


In the summer of 1986, the  Consortium of Agencies Serving Older Adults in Lee County discussed  unmet needs on Pine Island and other outlying areas of the county.  One  of their recommendations was that Age Link assist in developing FISH  organizations on Pine Island and Ft. Myers Beach.  FISH service  organizations were already established on Sanibel and in Lehigh Acres.


In  September 1986, Lois Allen, the new Age Link volunteer coordinator met  Lillian at a conference on aging in Orlando.  Contacts were made with  local churches, the Chamber of Commerce and organizations such as the  Kiwanis, VFW, and hobby clubs to share information about the planned  FISH and to ask for input and assistance.  Contact was also made with  FISH of Lehigh Acres and Sanibel.  Both organizations freely shared  information on how their organizations began and how they are currently  structured. hen Lois told Lilian that Lois’ job included starting a FISH  organization on Pine Island, an alliance was immediately formed.  Upon  returning to Ft. Myers, arrangements were made for a meeting with Lois,  Lilian and Betty.  Their first meeting was Oct. 16, 1986 and then  subsequent FISH meetings were held at least weekly through Feb. 1987,  the day after FISH services began on Pine Island. 

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 The 1987 Steering Committee, pictured here, developed the board structure, the types of services to be  provided (transportation, telephone reassurance, friendly visiting, minor home repairs, temporary meal preparation/ household chores, shopping and respite), created job descriptions, and the process by  which volunteers would provide service, maintain records, etc. 

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The original group of three (Lois,  Lilian and Betty) was increased to a group of six with the addition of Earl Enge, Mary Shaw and Laura Rider. The first Board of Pine Island  FISH consisted of these six and two additional members, Carol Dossing  and Dr. Lou Mauney.   

 

The first donation was from Kiwanis ($50) to install a phone line, then  within a few weeks a fund-raiser was held which resulted in  contributions of about $500.  Below is the press coverage of this early fundraiser.That was the entire FISH treasury in February 1987, but we were on our way!   


The Pine Island FISH organization applied for  and received tax exempt status as a 501c(3) organization in April 1994. The organization also registered with the State of Florida.. 

Pine Island FISH Over the Years

By the mid 1990’s, FISH was 54 volunteers strong and still maintaining their high level of service. Calls for services rose from 349 in 1988 to 1320 during 1995. There was always a  continuing need and recruitment of volunteers. The summer season was always the hardest time of year to find volunteers; an issue that lasts  until present times. In addition, FISH joined a community effort in  November 1995 to establish the Pine Island Community Food Pantry; a service that continues through the present. Below is an Eagle article on the Pantry from April 10, 1996.  

The Pine Island Food Pantry became independent of the FISH organization in January 2009. 


As time went on and FISH was no longer involved in the needs of only the  elderly or disabled, our articles of incorporation and bylaws were  revised to indicate the expansion of the original "missions" and  clients. We're a completely volunteer organization and all activities are initiated from the homes of volunteers. There is no central office or paid staff.  The majority of funds come from Pine Island/Matlacha or, sometimes, from those who have connections with local residents, with  minimal assistance from any government agency or grants. Our only overhead is for rental of the mobility equipment storage unit,  telephone, office supplies, and the yearly requirements from IRS and the State for registration and audits. 


As additional funds began to  appear in our mailbox and as time progressed, we were able to expand  services, to include the Basket Brigade which can provide assistance for  Back to School Clothes, Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets. Prior to  the FISH Christmas Basket program, there were several churches and  organizations that provided holiday assistance for families. This meant  that some received several baskets while others were overlooked. Since 1991, there has been just one island-wide Christmas Basket Brigade,  supported by our churches, organizations, and a host of generous  individuals. In 2000 we added the Clothes for Kids program which ensures that children have new outfits for their first two days of school.     

Current Services

There is never a charge for any FISH  service and volunteers receive no reimbursement for expenses that they  may incur, with the exception of gas expenses when requested.  Services are provided regardless of the economic status of clients, except for financial assistance.

  • Non-emergency transportation: to medical facilities, grocery store, pharmacy, bank, etc. to individuals with no other access to transportation.
  • Mobility Equipment to lend: Wheelchairs, walkers, etc.
  • Special Needs: emergency financial assistance for rent, utilities, medical, etc.
  • Respite: Relief to non-paid, primary caregivers for approximately 4 hours, once a week.
  • In-Touch: Contact with home-bound individuals either by phone or home visits.-Lead Agency in the Pine Island “Basket Brigade” Program 
  • Serves as the Lead Agency for the Islands' Basket Brigades, providing new toys and Winn Dixie gift cards for families with children at Christmas, Christmas baskets for seniors and singles.couples (assisted by the Matlacha Hookers), and new school clothes for children.
  • Partners with PILOT (Pine Island Leaders of Tomorrow) after school and summer camp Food Programs,
  • Partners with Pine Island Elementary School for field trip transportation and fees.


In  order to expand our message into the electronic age, FISH continues to  develop their website, www.pineislandfish.org to bring information to  both volunteers and interested potential volunteers and donors.  The  FISH Tales is updated on a yearly basis to include our latest advances and accomplishments.