As the New Year begins, many are hopeful 2024 will bring new beginnings for Hurricane Ian survivors continuing their recovery journey. FISH OF SANCAP, the islands social service organization, has spent 2023 working with residents and the islands’ workforce who continue to struggle with the after effects of the devastating storm. While much progress has been made, many in the community still have not returned. And not much seems ‘back to normal’, yet.

The islands’ workforce and residents report ongoing struggles with repairs to their homes. From peeling paint to cracks in the floor to missing drywall, roofs and more, homeowners and tenants are finding it difficult to move forward. “The emotional, physical and financial stress on our community is huge,” says Manuela Martinez, Disaster Administrative Director. “Many don’t know when repairs will be complete; some have emptied their savings while trying to bring their home back to pre-Ian condition. There are still many challenges facing survivors today.”

FISH is working around the clock to identify Ian survivors’ still needing assistance in hopes of ascertaining repairs, obtaining bids and expediting the rebuilding process. On Fri., Jan. 19th a team of volunteers from FGCU will be available to assess the needs of those living or working on Sanibel and Captiva islands. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., student volunteers will be distributing FISH Long-Term Recovery program applications at Jerrys Foods, 1700 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel; Periwinkle Park, 1119 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel and the Sanibel Public Library, 770 Dunlop Road, Sanibel.


“The goal of our Long-Term Recovery program is to identify and assist those still struggling with the financial burden from Hurricane Ian,” continues Martinez. “While we cannot reimburse individuals for monies spent, we might be able to provide financial assistance for projects moving forward.” The program, in part, is made available through the organization’s partnership with The Sanctuary Golf Club Foundation and the American National Red Cross.


Martinez notes the Long-Term Recovery program is available to those that live – homeowners and/or tenants — or work full-time on the islands only. The amount of financial assistance is limited and may only cover partial payments toward the cost of repairs. Payments are made to vendors who are providing services or recovery efforts due to Hurricane Ian and not to individuals. These may include but are not limited to housing repairs, permitting costs, temporary housing, loss of goods and furnishings, and any other hurricane related needs. for primary homes only.


To apply for the FISH Long-Term Recovery program, an application must be completed. Interested individuals may pick up an application from volunteer teams on Jan. 19 at the locations noted above, can download the application from the FISH website or can 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.


Completed applications and documentation may be delivered to FISH at 2422 Periwinkle Way between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday-Friday, or scanned and emailed to [email protected]. Community members are encouraged to visit with the FISH team and refer the program to other residents and workforce, even if they don’t think they are eligible, as FISH may be able to provide additional resources for assistance including legal aid and opportunities to fast track the recovery process. For those unable to visit FISH on Sanibel, please contact Nitza Lopez at 239-472-4775 — se habla español.

In addition to the Long-Term Recovery program, FISH is continuing the POD furniture distribution, in partnership with United Way Gifts In-Kind. Beginning Jan. 5th and continuing every other Friday, FISH distributes household furnishings and items to residents and the island workforce. Items are limited to three per household. Items may be picked up at 2430 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Individuals first check in with a FISH team member to provide proof of island residency or employment and then may view available items once their number is called. They have approximately 10 minutes to load selected items. FISH notes those picking up items need to bring assistance to help with heavy loading and a large vehicle.

In addition, the agency continues to offer traditional programs focused on their four major pillars – Food, Island Based Education, Social and Senior Services, and Helping Hands to ensure no need goes unmet. If you or someone you know needs assistance, contact FISH at 239.472.4775. 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.