Eastern Henrico FISH Provides Assistance

Eastern Henrico FISH depends on the help of local churches and charitable organizations to get members in the community back on their feet.

The non-profit serves Henrico residents east and south of Mechanicsville Turnpike including Highland Springs, Varina, and Sandston providing clothes, food, and financial assistance for people with short term emergencies.

“We strive for FISH’s presence to help strengthen Eastern Henrico through the organizations and community that supports us,” said Vickie Martin, director of FISH.

Martin has been with FISH since 2002 and got involved with the organization through her church, New Bridge Baptist, and has worked as a volunteer and staff member before becoming director.

FISH, which is a nationwide organization, has been in Metro Richmond for 38 years and since 2001 has served clients and donors out of Village Presbyterian Church with a clothes closet, food pantry, information and referral services.

“We moved to the church to be more accessible to clients and to make it easier for donors to drop things off,” said Martin.

The organization helps victims in all kinds of situations that have put them at a disadvantage. FISH covers portions of rent, a mortgage, car repair, or utilities for those that qualify.

FISH has established criteria to help the people in the community who are desperately in need of financial aid or other items and takes time to consider circumstances in each household. Last year, it served 400 households, or about 1,100 individuals.

“We look at what the need is, we see them through that emergency, and are there to help them get through that bump in the road,” said Martin.

All of the items such as clothes and food are donated by the community or from members of the 26 churches that are involved with FISH. The group partners with these churches, civic groups, businesses, social services and other government agencies and non-profits to better serve their clients.

“We rely on churches in the community for support,” said Martin.

Fundraisers are held by the non-profit to spread awareness and help to aid their mission. An annual benefit concert is held to bring everyone involved in the organization together and take up donations. It’s usually the organization's largest event and is held at different venues each year. The most recent concert was held at Sandston Baptist Church.

Eastern Henrico FISH has an average of 50 volunteers, with several coming in each week to assist families and individuals over the phone and work in the clothes closet and food pantry rooms. In 2009, volunteers gave 3,000 hours of their to help clients of FISH.

“Without the support of our volunteers we couldn’t maintain,” said Martin.

Eutanaha Fluker has volunteered for FISH for over 20 years and has seen the positive effect the organization has on the community.

“FISH does a good job of determining what a person’s real needs are and referring them to churches,” said Fluker. Like Martin, Fluker is a member of New Bridge Baptist and got involved after word spread about the growing needs of the non-profit.

“It’s really important for churches to work together to do what we do for FISH,” Fluker said.

Fluker has served as a church representative for the group in the past, worked the phone taking calls from clients and spent hours in the food pantry and clothes closet.

Around this time of year, FISH receives a good amount of food donations for its food pantry but is in serious need of financial donations. It's also seeking other churches that are interested in joining the cause.

“We’re always looking to add churches to support our mission,” said Martin.

FISH is available to people in the Eastern Henrico area Monday- Friday from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. Families or individuals needing assistance from FISH, or people who wish to make a contribution, can reach the organization at 222-5564.
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Henrico County Public Schools Exceptional Education Department’s Autism Coordinators and Transition Services will hold a Community Night Out from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Hermitage High School. Representatives from local agencies will be on hand to provide information on options and services available to students and their families. Mini breakout sessions are available at 6:30 p.m. and include Medicaid Waivers, I’m Determined, and No IEPs in College. For details, visit http://tinyurl.com/specialneedsCNO. Full text

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