September News & Updates from
Friends In Sonoma Helping
Our Newest FISH Volunteers
Roy Tennant
Peter Grotte and Eric Curtis
MyEsha Maheena
Dear FISHpeople,

Not only is it harvest time in the vineyards, FISH has enjoyed getting to know our bumper crop of new volunteers! It is my pleasure to introduce you to them.

Roy Tennant comes to us as an experienced Food Bank volunteer who just happens to to know databases inside and out. Although he joined us this summer, he has become the manager of our new database. Roy also picks up food at Whole Foods on Thursdays for the FISH Food Room.

Peter Grotte and Eric Curtis also joined FISH this summer. Each week they return crates to Whole Foods and then pack their van for a trip to Goodwill in Petaluma with donations that can't be used at the Clothing Closet. Peter and Eric moved to Sonoma from Woodside where their volunteer work included gardening and cleaning. Welcome and thank you.

MyEsha Maheena is also a new volunteer who brings a wide variety of volunteer experiences to FISH...from hospice to hotline and food preparation to gardening. Initially MyEsha is helping out in the office but is also interested in packing for our food delivery programs and is also interested in becoming a ride-finder. Welcome!

Chantal Mesick has completed her volunteer training and "flew solo" for the first time on September 3rd as our newest Dispatcher. Chantal has volunteered at both Vintage House and the Ecology Center and we are delighted that she has included FISH dispatching as part of her volunteer work.
At our August 31st FISH Volunteer Orientation session, we welcomed a trio of new volunteers. Laurie Nelson hopes to becomes a FISH Driver and work in the Food Room. Laurie recently saw her daughter off to college at Tulane University in New Orleans, only to have her return home due to the damage from the hurricane Ida.

Janet Summers was recruited by her neighbor, Bev Koepplin, to join FISH as a Dispatcher. Janet brings a wide variety of skills to FISH as a high school art teacher and also experience in the realtor/rental world. After getting her feet wet as a Dispatcher, Jane would like to join the rental team.

Kathleen Statler initially came to the valley to visit her mother in Glen Ellen. She purchased a home there and is now a full-time resident. Kathleen has worked for a number of foundations while a managing director in large companies. Both she and Janet have been smitten by canine friends - or puppies as they are more affectionately known.
As we moved into September, another new volunteer completed her orientation. Mary Carver comes to us after a high flying career as a flight attendant and, more recently, a volunteer from La Luz. Ligia Booker met Mary in line for a COVID vaccination, struck up a conversation and invited Mary to volunteer for FISH.

Mary will join our list of Drivers - and we are hoping to take advantage of her Spanish speaking abilities as well.

Many thanks to ALL of our FISH volunteers!
Remembering Ruth Johnson
It is with great sadness we bid Ruth Johnson farewell. Ruth started in the Clothing Room in 1998 and loved her fellow Wednesday volunteers who became her FISH family. Ruth displayed a zest for living and she had a very special place in her heart for children. Because she adored children, she spent the entire year gathering toys and washing stuffed animals to give out each Christmas. Ruth would display all the toys so parents could select special gifts for their children. This was truly Ruth's passion and her legacy.

We at FISH feel honored to have known and worked with Ruth and to count her as one of our beloved volunteers.
FISH FOCUS: our Food Pantry
by Beverly Seyfert
It’s amazing, the amount of food that moves through FISH to our clients. Cases of canned goods, pounds of pasta, boxes of bran flakes – it’s like supplying a small store! Buying all that food at retail prices (even sale prices) boggles the mind. Fortunately, we partner with Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB).  They sell staples at reduced cost, and better yet, offer donated products for a nominal service fee. For example, a case of peanut butter is about $20 – a case of donated peanut butter is about $2.50. Eight for the price of 1 - that’s a lot of sandwiches!

A year ago, REFB offered a grant program that saves us even more. We get a generous monthly allowance that can be used for any donated products or produce. In essence, it gives us those products at no cost, AND with free delivery! That just warmed my bargain-hunter heart… even Amazon Prime doesn’t do that!  FISH has really benefited, getting hundreds of pounds of staples, produce, diapers, and even Girl Scout cookies.  In March, I placed an order for 1,891 pounds of products, and it cost us exactly $0.00.

Of course, nothing is ever truly free... REFB does require a monthly report detailing client counts and any changes we’ve made in our program.  That online report must be completed before the month’s grant is released.  Monthly grants don’t roll over, so getting the report filed is a critical task added to my end-of-month statistics. Occasionally there are glitches applying the grant funds, so I review invoices carefully and work with REFB to fix any problems.

Participating in the REFB grant program takes some effort, but given the amount of money we save, it’s definitely time “well-spent”. 
More Highlights from FISH:
On Tuesday, September 21st FISH will have a table at the Farmer's Market where a special program called "Breathe Sonoma!" will provided resources to the public around wellness issues. Please join us as we celebrate the harvest and take a deep breath to increase our wellbeing.
Many thanks to all our financial supporters! A very generous bequest from the George H Golds estate for more than $415,000 has been received by FISH and applied to our ongoing work as we continue to provide extensive services during the pandemic. The Sonoma Valley Catalyst fund provided a $33,000 grant to enhance our Holiday Food Baskets. A huge thank you to them for their support of our Holiday Food Basket project. And Rob Jones, a local realtor and long time supporter of FISH, presented FISH a $1,000 check from Corcoran Global Living. David Kerr, also from Corcoran Global Living and long time supporter of FISH, provided the photograph above.

On September 23rd we will be launched into our second year of our Cohort work. During the first year we set a new vision and mission statement. We also developed Core Values, rewrote the by-laws and established a new governance structure that includes a Board of Directors. We now have both a Board and a Steering Committee to support the work of FISH.

FISH has a number of exciting second year projects to consider for our Cohort 2 participation. Could we gather information that would help us understand how we might better serve our Spanish-speaking neighbors? Should we reorganize our Food Pantry to resemble a grocery store where people can select the food they need and want? Should we focus and the large number of adults who rely heavily on FISH to survive? We have seniors who really depend on FISH for food, medicine, utilities, rides and rent. Seniors on Social Security are especially challenged to live on $900 per month. I'll keep you posted on our thinking and our focus.

Our new Board of Directors has been especially busy in the first two months of their existence. Job descriptions have been reviewed, revised and, in some cases, created. Policies have been adopted and this month the Board will review all policies to align them with our new governance. It is also approaching time to draft a budget for 2022. Will it rival the one million dollar budget of 2020???

As the autumnal equinox approaches, I am reminded of balance. Twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness. Equilibrium. Less angst with more acceptance. A time to enjoy the crisp morning air, the emerging bedlam of colored leaves and the delicious memory of caramel apples. Breathe Sonoma indeed!

In friendship,
Sandy Piotter, Executive Director
P.O. Box 507, Sonoma CA 95476-0507