CFI and Sanctuary Collaborate to Provide New Van for F.I.S.H.

(From left) F.I.S.H. Executive Director Maggie Feiner, CFI Grants Chair Virginia Stringer, F.I.S.H. Board Chair Nichole McHale and Sanctuary Golf Club General Manager Ken Kouril inspect F.I.S.H.’s new delivery van. Photo provided

(From left) F.I.S.H. Executive Director Maggie Feiner, CFI Grants Chair Virginia Stringer, F.I.S.H. Board Chair Nichole McHale and Sanctuary Golf Club General Manager Ken Kouril inspect F.I.S.H.’s new delivery van. Photo provided


The Charitable Foundation of the Islands and the Sanctuary Golf Club Board came together in March to help F.I.S.H. serve its clients more effectively. The result of their collaboration is a sizable van that will provide efficient pickup and delivery of supplies to the F.I.S.H. pantry.

“F.I.S.H. volunteers face major challenges keeping the pantry stocked, because they have at their disposal only personal cars to pick up supplies,” CFI Grants Chair Virginia Stringer said. “Personal vehicles don’t have the space or equipment to transport heavy items or large quantities. The new van solves these problems.”

Delivered to F.I.S.H. in early April, the van has transformed the organization’s pantry services. “A delivery of frozen food and canned goods from the Harry Chapin Food Bank can weigh as much as 800 pounds,” F.I.S.H. Executive Director Maggie Feiner said. “The new van’s weight limit is 1600 pounds, which is phenomenal for us.”

In addition to food and home supplies, F.I.S.H. routinely loans health equipment to clients, including walkers, wheel chairs, commodes, crutches and canes. “These items all require delivery to clients’ homes,” Feiner said. “Wheel chairs and commodes in particular are heavy and bulky,” she added. “The van can easily handle the load.”

The vehicle is a 2018 Chevrolet City Express cargo van. Although spare on bells and whistles, it is longer and taller than a typical van, and it is fuel efficient.

“The van comes with a backup camera,” Feiner said, “and the dealership, Victory Lane Chevrolet, donated sturdy partitions, which it installed between the front seat and the cargo area. They are a really important safety feature for us.”

The entire partnership making this acquisition possible for F.I.S.H. includes the CFI/Sanctuary Grant, along with an anonymous private donor, Victory Lane Chevrolet and salesman Big Mike. The total cost of the van is $23,000.

F.I.S.H. currently serves more than 750 Island families. “Our client base has grown considerably in recent years,” Feiner said. “Walking through our doors and admitting that you are hungry and cannot feed your family is a humbling experience,” she added. “With SNAP cutbacks and cost increases for food, gasoline and rent, the number of people in need continues to escalate. The van will help us keep our pantry continuously stocked for these families, with no gaps in service.”

The van makes as many as seven runs per week. In addition to the Chapin Food Bank, the van stops at the Sanibel Farmers’ Market on Sundays. “The Market gives us several cases of tomatoes, plus peppers, eggplants—all varieties of veggies,” she said, adding, “Our pantry clients love fresh veggies and fruits.”

F.I.S.H volunteers pick up produce as soon as the Market closes on Sunday. It is sorted and refrigerated and ready for clients Monday morning, promptly at 10 a.m. F.I.S.H. also picks up supplies from Bailey’s General Store and Reggie’s Island Pharmacy. The van’s volunteer drivers receive special training on the equipment and operation of the vehicle.

During the season, approximately 200 volunteers support F.I.S.H.’s 43 discrete services, with about 50 stepping up in the summer months. Food pantry hours of operation are 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, “but our staff works 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Feiner said, “and I am on call 24/7. We are there whenever clients need us.”

The CFI Grants committee, headed by Stringer, includes Cindy Brown, Brenda Harrity, Chris Heidrick, Mike Kelly, Jim Pouliot, Nathalie Pyle and Chip Roach.

The Charitable Foundation of the Islands’ partnership with the 2018 Sanctuary Charity Classic and its many generous sponsors has helped it to provide the funds for this van and its many other charitable endeavors. The Sanctuary Charity Classic has collaborated with CFI to assist the Islands’ neighbors in need for more than 15 years.  Since its inception, the event has raised over $1.5 million, making it possible for CFI to bring abundant critical resources to area non-profit organizations.

The Sanctuary Golf Club and its members generously provide the club and the golf course for the day. Ongoing generosity from the community and Sanctuary members demonstrates the caring nature of the Islands.

CFI’s mission is to promote philanthropy, to help Sanibel and Captiva residents in need, and to strengthen the islands’ non-profit organizations, building a spirit of community for generations to come. CFI’s primary concerns are basic human needs, arts, education, historic preservation, the environment and unforeseen emergencies. CFI accomplishes its goals through the distribution of annually raised funds and stewardship of reserves maintained for emergencies.

Article originally published in the Santiva Chronicle