By Mary Nader
Fishline is the recipient of untold expressions of generosity and support.
We are simply a conduit through which your donations are channeled to the hurting neighbors who seek our help. Without the food, monetary and material donations and the efforts of more than 225 volunteers, Fishline would cease to exist. We acknowledge this every day and feel a sense of responsibility in assuring what has been entrusted to us will be honored, the intentions of our donors followed.
But the question that is asked often is whether the donations get to those most truly in need. We continually ask ourselves this same question. The problem comes in arriving upon fair and respectful ways to evaluate client need, both at the time of their first visit and upon subsequent visits.
We can assure you that due diligence is taken to measure client need. When financial help is sought, an extensive screening process is undertaken, which may include referrals to professional financial counselors who donate their time to help our clients.
Financial help from Fishline is only available on an infrequent basis and is reserved for local clients. A cap is placed on the amount that can be approved, but often we work with other local agencies if our help is not enough to stabilize the situation.
When it comes to food, it is harder to measure eligibility. How do we know if an individual or family is so financially strapped that a trip to the grocery store might use up funds needed for the electric bill? How can we tell if a senior is forced to make the choice between food or prescriptions? A young adult “couch surfing” because they are out of work and homeless may need food just to be able to provide for himself in a temporary living situation. The scenarios are as numerous as the individuals who live them.
Of the more than 100 families who visit Fishline every day, the largest majority receive services for a short time while life is in transition. Jobs are landed, problems resolved, and we see these clients less and less. Others stay longer because unemployment lingers or health problems persist. But nearly all of our clients are careful to not take too much so others have enough, and many clients volunteer or donate in other ways to repay the kindness.
Certainly there are those who could get by without our help. We try not to let this be our focus, because we know that there are far more who could not get by without Fishline at this time in their lives. Our doubts melt away when we see how valiantly folks face their difficulties, humble enough to ask for help when it is needed and so thankful to receive it that tears flow.
These are the moments that keep us going, the gratitude that lets us know a genuine need has been met and the lives that are better because we are there.
— Mary Nader is executive director of North Kitsap Fishline.