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FISH celebrates 40 years of helping Gig Harbor neighbors

Volunteer Kevin Jacobsen shows off a bag of donated dog food during a tour of the FISH food bank. The food bank celebrated its 40th birthday Tuesday.
Volunteer Kevin Jacobsen shows off a bag of donated dog food during a tour of the FISH food bank. The food bank celebrated its 40th birthday Tuesday. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

The Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH celebrated 40 years of service to Gig Harbor area residents on Tuesday with a community lunch at Peninsula Lutheran Church.

Jan Coen is one of the founding members who helped to start the volunteer-run organization in 1976.

“We want to help people get back on their feet,” she said. “We’re neighbor helping neighbor.”

The organization is best known for its food bank, located in the Eagles Club off Burnham Dr., but its services extend further to other forms of community support.

FISH also provides help with emergency funding situations, works with school counselors to support local children, provides connections to social service agencies and provides transportation to medical appointments.

Focusing primarily on meeting emergency and immediate needs, FISH helps to connect people with services that can help them in the long term, if needed.

Carol Coyle has been a volunteer with FISH for the past two years, with her 10-year-old granddaughter joining her on some visits.

“We’re very blessed to get so many nice things,” she said. “It’s so nice when people need things to be here for them.”

This neighborly mindset is exactly what the founders of the international FISH organization where aiming for.

Started in 1961 in England by Rev. Derek Eastman, an Anglican pastor, and Dr. Donald Richards, the two men were looking for a way to increase concern and care between neighbors. The idea spread through Europe and eventually to the U.S. in 1964 by William Turpin, where it took root in West Springfield, Massachusetts, before spreading church by church through the country.

The Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH now has more than 230 volunteers who help run the food bank, answer phones, perform clerical duties and continue to help their neighbors.

Coen said that the organization, run entirely by volunteers, would not have survived or flourished as it has without the support of the Gig Harbor community.

“The neat thing is meeting all these people willing to give up their time to help their community,” she said. “When we first started out I don’t think we had any clue that it would be this accepted and supported.”

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

Gig Harbor Peninsula FISH

The food bank is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and is closed Tuesdays.

FISH food bank: 253-858-6179

FISH financial Aid: 253-851-8800

ghpfish.com

Located in the Eagles Club at 4425 Burnham Drive

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