FISH of Vancouver
This month, we are honored to be partnering with an impactful, local organization- FISH of Vancouver! FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity) has provided for the hungry and impoverished populations in our area for more than 45 years. Through their efforts and commitment from volunteers, they have been able to open their food pantry every weekday to achieve this goal. FISH got its start when community volunteers realized that their neighbors, including children and elderly, were hungry. For more than 45 years this all-volunteer group provided food and clothing, first from a garage and then from a small, rented space in St. Paul Lutheran Church. Donations allowed the pantry to purchase a permanent building at 906 Harney in downtown Vancouver in 2015 and to hire a part-time operations manager.
FISH now distributes approximately 500,000 pounds and more of food each year. Volunteer drivers pick up donated food from grocery stores each weekday morning. The Clark County Food Bank, NW Harvest and food donation barrels provide additional food. In 2015-16, more than 16,000 households (44,741 individuals [14,549 unduplicated]) were served, including 31% children and 20% elderly. And volunteers donated an astonishing amount of time – nearly 21,000 hours – to the pantry. Not only does FISH distribute food through the pantry, it partners with groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs and a 123-unit housing project for homeless veterans and others with extremely low incomes to ensure that their clients receive healthy food each week. FISH also serves families in schools with as high as 90% of the students qualifying for free or reduced price meals, an indicator of children living in poverty. And the FISH clothing area provides clothes for all ages, particularly for growing, low-income children in need of school clothes.
FISH often hears from current and past clients like a professional in our community. She remembers coming to FISH as a child and she now gives back as a member of the FISH Board of Directors. She says: “My dad was a custom cabinet maker tradesman, working in Vancouver, but when I was in Junior High he hurt his back and was laid off. Disc and knee surgery followed. My Mom was taking care of Dad, raising four growing kids and working part-time. They had a house payment and with no money left over each month, so they leaned on the FISH pantry to get the food needs that food stamps could not fulfill. I remember many times going with my Mom to the food pantry to gather the food needs for our family. I remember a few Holidays where FISH provided a great meal for my very grateful family. Sometimes we got popcorn from FISH and Dad would make it in a pan. That put big smiles on all our faces. It’s where I got my never ending love of popcorn. There were many times we had to go back due to empty cupboards and we were never turned away. FISH always provided short term needs for my family. FISH gave me hope!”
After hearing stories such as this, we are so grateful for the work FISH does here in Vancouver. Through their efforts, they have provided emergency food to approximately 5,000 individuals each month. Thank you, FISH for the positive impact you have on families living in poverty and the hope you give to vulnerable populations in Clark County. To learn more about this incredible non-profit, please visit their website at www.fishvancouver.org