By Colin Foster
TROY — It’s the only time of the year that members of FISH come out of their tank.
FISH of Troy — a volunteer led work force that responds one-on-one to persons calling for assistance with rent, utilities, gasoline, prescriptions and other emergencies — volunteers were at the Troy Kroger Tuesday, distributing 60 complete turkey dinners to families who registered for the third consecutive year.
“We work with Kroger on this, and I think it’s a fabulous way to do it,” FISH director Myrna Yoder said. “They do all the prep and get this thing boxed up, and we do the legwork and the paperwork and folks can come get a turkey dinner. It’s a good project. We decided a few years ago that something needed to be done because a lot of people do Christmas baskets and toys, and there was kind of a void at Thanksgiving time. There still is. We still have a lot of people that call us and say they’d love to have a dinner. That’s why we decided to do this for Thanksgiving.”
And according to Yoder and secretary Mary Davis, who were standing in front of the store greeting customers as they walked in Tuesday, it’s a time of the year the volunteers of FISH truly enjoy.
“This is a happy moment for us,” Yoder said. “We don’t see our clients because we don’t have an office. We do everything on the phone in our day-to-day work with FISH. This is the only time we see folks. The majority of these folks were recommended by churches, and they really aren’t FISH clients. These are people we don’t know and may never see again. FISH works in an anonymous manner.”
“We do this because it’s a passion,” Davis added.
FISH has 13 volunteers who field calls five days out the week year around. Davis, a retired school teacher, said she spends several days a month, talking on the phone for up to four hours a day to clients, landlords, people at medical facilities, and utility services.
“It takes a lot of checking,” Davis said.
The idea for FISH of Troy was conceived in 1969 when a First United Methodist Church of Troy member came across an article in a Reader’s Digest magazine regarding a concept for helping those in need. Following that, a group of church men decided to give it a try by assisting the needy with food and used clothing. Over the years, the avenues of help FISH provides have been modified, but the ideal principal has always stayed the same: Serve those in the community that need help.
“It’s a passion to help people,” Yoder said. “They don’t know who we are … and it’s okay. I like that. I like being able to help, and they’re grateful for the help we give them.”
In 2012, FISH distributed $37,000 to assist 810 families in the Troy, Pleasant Hill and Casstown areas. To date in 2013, FISH has pledged $30,500 to help out 630 area families. The organization provides assistance in the following areas: rent before eviction, utility disconnects, prescriptions, clothing, gasoline for transportation to and from work and for trips to the doctor.
Funds to keep FISH up-and-running come from the support of local churches, individuals, organization donations and grants. There are many local churches associated with FISH, including Church of the Brethren, Cove Spring Church, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian/Board of Deacons, First United Church of Christ, First United Methodist Church, First United Methodist Church Women, St. John’s United Church of Christ, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and Troy Christian Church. The registrations for the dinners came from people affiliated with those churches and a few select FISH clients.
Community Partners of FISH include the Corvette Charity, Goodrich Finance Employees, Miami Grandmother’s Club, Teen Leadership G.I.F.T, The Clothesline, Troy Foundation, Wal-Mart Grant, Women’s Christian Society, U.S. Bank Interest and Park G. Duke Foundation.
People seeking assistance can reach FISH by calling (937) 335-1440. FISH has a 24-hour a day answering machine at the Troy Fire Department. People seeking assistance must have a Troy, Casstown or Pleasant Hill mailing address to qualify, but may receive help once every six months.