Despite ongoing challenges in repairing homes since Hurricane Ian, the workforce and residents of the islands continue their attempts to move forward. Now that another hurricane season has begun and is predicted to be more active than usual, many find themselves overwhelmed by the possibility of further hardship.

FISH OF SANCAP continues to be a constant pillar of support for its community by remaining dedicated to assisting survivors of Hurricane Ian by identifying ongoing needs, coordinating repairs, and alleviating financial burdens through its Long-Term Recovery program. Beyond this program, FISH extends its support to community members facing various challenges through programs representing their four major pillars — Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands — demonstrating a commitment to their well-being now and in the future.

As the hurricane’s aftermath lingers, the organization has processed over 90 applications for home repair financial assistance. Individuals seeking assistance are identified through FISH’s canvassing efforts, outreach phone calls, referrals and known to FISH. Among them is Frank Lopato, a long-standing island resident, whose gratitude towards FISH confirms the sentiments of many. “I’m deeply thankful to FISH for their recent support. They truly understand the struggles I’ve faced over the past year,” expressed Lopato in a heartfelt letter to the organization, citing assistance with roof repairs that insurance couldn’t cover fully. The name of the individual has been changed for privacy purposes.

Lopato’s introduction to the program came through his island employer and through FISH’s proactive outreach to businesses to distribute information about their programs and specifically long-term recovery. Nitza Lopez, Disaster Case Manager, emphasizes the importance of overcoming misconceptions surrounding financial aid, often barriers to seeking help.

Navigating the application process may seem intimidating, but Lopato found ease with FISH’s guidance. “Reaching out to strangers wasn’t easy, but FISH made me feel less anxious,” he recounted, highlighting the relief the organization provided during disaster recovery difficulties. Now, he’s committed to sharing FISH’s support with others facing similar challenges, praising the organization’s comprehensive assistance spanning from financial aid to meal programs and more.

The Long-Term Recovery program is available to island residents and full-time workers, offering limited financial assistance for repair costs directly to service providers. Applications can be obtained from FISH’s website or its Sanibel location, and  mandatory documentation with an initial intake session with Disaster Case Manager, Nitza Lopez is required. Completed applications and documents can be submitted in person or via email, with contact details provided for assistance or inquiries.

For general inquiries about FISH’s services, individuals can reach out to Maria Espinoza, Executive Director, or visit the organization’s website.