More Than Just Food–FISH champions the needy in many ways
Thanksgiving brings families together around tables of bountiful food. Christmas conjures visions of trees and presents and carol-singing, and more food. But there are many who are unable to partake of the joy and merriment of the season. Countless people around us are in need of food and shelter. Thankfully FISH—Friends in Service to Humanity—is here to help.
Since it was founded in 1972 by Carol Angevine, FISH has evolved into the largest emergency homeless shelter in the northwest corner, offering 35 beds, five of which are designated for veterans. It provides families and individuals a safe and secure haven as they await supportive housing. It also serves as a food pantry for many residents in outlying communities. Last year FISH distributed enough food to provide over 115,000 meals for over 500 families. The organization has only one branch, which is located at 332 South Main Street in Torrington.
For the past six years the organization has been in the capable hands of executive director Deirdre Houlihan DiCara. It is her passion, knowledge, and caring that have helped all those who come to FISH. “We’re here to believe in all who enter our doors. Everyone deserves a roof over their head and a good life,” DiCara says. “The stability offered by the FISH shelter is crucial.”
The FISH food pantry, which is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday relies on contributions from the community and now needs to purchase food as well to keep up with the demand. “One of the first grants I got was used for a ten-by-14-foot freezer so that we could receive refrigerated food,” says DiCara. “Now we can offer frozen turkeys, along with pallets of fresh vegetables donated by local food suppliers.”
FISH has complete supportive services in place as well. Adam Pitts, Case Manager for families, individuals, and veterans, meets and greets all applicants and interviews them to establish their needs. There is also a visiting doctor who comes once a week. “We try to make things as easy and pleasant as possible,” DiCara says. “We want to keep people hopeful. Every day is a feel good day for me and I want our clients to have that same feeling.”
With the holidays upon us DiCara and her team shift into high gear. Clients come and sign up for the services. One of the main concerns is seeing that families with children are accommodated as much as possible. “We do a fundraiser at Five Points Gallery where we have a Santa Claus who greets the kids and tries to fulfill their wishes,” says DiCara. “It’s heartwarming when you are able to make children in these circumstances happy at holiday time.”
But FISH’s work is never done. The need for food has become increasingly problematic. There are meetings with food providers as well as the CT Food Bank on how best to improve delivery systems. Presently DiCara sends a van to Wallingford once a month to collect food. She dreams of a local food hub, which would be more convenient and immediate.
DiCara’s enthusiasm and passion in spreading the word about FISH’s challenges never wavers and her hope is that more and more donors will help her in the crusade to end hunger and homelessness in our area.