Shortly after FISH OF SANCAP launched their Long-Term Recovery program for Hurricane Ian survivors, the agency reports approving one of their first applicants.
In January, the organization canvassed the community with the help of FISH and FGCU volunteers to assess the Ian recovery needs of those living or working on Sanibel and Captiva islands. FISH continues to work around the clock to identify Ian survivors’ still seeking recovery assistance.
Susan and Jim Long have been island residents for quite some time, and are deeply connected to the community since retiring there years ago. “Like so many, we never in our wildest dreams imagined something of this magnitude,” says Susan. “Living in southwest Florida, hurricanes are a known risk. What I didn’t know or expect was the length of time it could take to recover from something like this, the ‘aftermath’. That’s been the worst part for myself and Jim, and the light at the end of the tunnel cannot be seen yet. This hurricane has taken everything we’ve worked so hard for.” The names of the individuals in this narrative have been changed for privacy purposes.
The Long’s residence was heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian. As soon as they returned to the island after Ian, they began remediation and damage assessment. While the home could be saved, they needed to replace floors, walls, appliances and furnishings. Plumbing and electrical issues are also a concern.
Susan and Jim began the lengthy and expensive process of putting their home back together. They worked with their insurance company, received a settlement, and used it to make their home somewhat livable. They received furnishings and household items from the FISH POD program to ‘help it feel more like home’. The couple has moved back in, but still do not have water. “We are bathing and using the facilities at friends’ homes. I have to go to a laundromat for washings, and we use paper products and utensils for food. It’s like a very long camping trip, and I dislike camping,” notes Susan.
The couple quickly used their entire savings account to pay for repairs, and they’re still not done. “We didn’t expect our savings that was supposed to last us years would be completely drained,” continues Susan. “Our only source of income is our social security, and we need to use that for living expenses. We’ve thankfully been accepted to the FISH food pantry program that provides a significant source of groceries, so we can afford other things like prescriptions, gas, utilities and outstanding repair expenses.”
When FISH announced their Long-Term Recovery program, the couple was first in line to complete the application. “It’s been a long road for this couple,” says Nitza Lopez, Disaster Case Manager. “Through a review of their application, conversations and inspections, we determined financial assistance was needed for this case.” FISH will assist the couple first the cost of plumbing repairs to get running water back into their home, and then see what additional repairs are needed.
FISH’s Long-Term Recovery program is available to those that live – homeowners and/or tenants — or work full-time on the islands. The amount of financial assistance is limited and may only cover partial payments toward the cost of repairs, up to a maximum of $15,000, for primary homes only.
Susan and Jim Long are an example of those who continue to struggle since Hurricane Ian. FISH is available to assist if certain conditions are met according to their guidelines. If FISH cannot assist, they can refer to other organizations or programs that may.
To apply for the FISH Long-Term Recovery program, an application must be completed. Interested individuals can download the application from the FISH website or visit the organization at their Sanibel location, 2422 Periwinkle Way. Certain documentation is required as well as an initial intake session with their Disaster Case Manager, Nitza Lopez. For questions or services specific to Long-Term Recovery program and the application process, please contact Nitza Lopez, 239.472.4775 or [email protected].
To learn more about FISH, please visit their website and social media pages to see firsthand how the agency works to better the community and particularly their response to the Ian disaster. To learn more about other services of FISH, please contact Maria Espinoza, Executive Director, at (239) 472-4775.
FISH of Sanibel-Captiva has been a ‘neighbors helping neighbors’ organization on Sanibel and Captiva for over 40 years. As a social service organization, FISH has been ground zero, in recent years, from natural and environmental crises to the impacts of COVID and now, for catastrophic Hurricane Ian. FISH offers something for everyone—if there is not a service in place for unmet needs of community members, they work to meet it through their expansive regional network. In addition to their Long-Term Recovery program, FISH continues to offer programs representing their four major pillars – Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands.
Although FISH has grown from the grassroots organization it started as, it still remains a network of ‘neighbors helping neighbors’; a group of community members committed to the betterment of the islands and southwest Florida community by assisting one neighbor at a time. FISH is proud to say that 93 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to programs and services including but not limited to:
- Long-Term disaster recovery
- Emergency financial assistance
- Food pantry
- Non-emergency transport
- Temporary loan of health equipment
- Hurricane preparedness information
- Daily hot meals program
More information about FISH is available online at fishofsancap.org, as well as Facebook, Instagram and X (formerly Twitter). For details about hurricane recovery and other services, contact Maria Espinoza, FISH Executive Director, at (239) 472-4775.