For many years, FISH of Grand Blanc has lent a helping hand to all residents living within the Grand Blanc Community School District, according to Chairperson, Barb Smith. The nonprofit, nondenominational organization was founded in 1974. The word FISH represents the symbol of the early Christians to identify themselves, Smith explains. And the need in the area is great as Grand Blanc is Genesee County’s largest school district. “One in three Grand Blanc students living within the district participates in the Free/Reduced Lunch Program,” reports Smith, a FISH volunteer for 42 years.
FISH of Grand Blanc helps anyone living in the school district including seniors, struggling young adults, veterans and others. The organization is funded strictly by donations from churches, private individuals, businesses and grants and all monies stay within the Grand Blanc community.
According to Smith, FISH was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from United Way, and last year they received a grant from Community Foundation of Greater Flint for their Food Rescue program. FISH partners with Grand Blanc Schools and St. Christopher Episcopal Church to distribute frozen foods donated by the schools that students did not purchase for lunches, along with produce, dairy and bakery products. “Last year, we distributed nearly 18.5 tons of food to over 2,000 people!” Smith exclaims. “Anyone can pick up food. They just have to show proof of where they live.”
FISH of Grand Blanc also maintains a Food Pantry located at Hill Funeral Home where food is distributed on a temporary and emergency basis. Recipients are eligible to receive assistance three times per year. FISH also provides hygiene, paper and laundry/cleaning products, toothbrushes and toothpaste when available.
“Last year, we distributed nearly 18.5 tons of food to over 2,000 people!”
A Clothes Closet is located at the Perry Center school on the second floor, providing free, gently used children’s clothing (infant to grade 12). “Last year, we handed out over 1,000 outfits,” Smith noted. “The need is way up.” In October, FISH also gives out winter coats (infant to age 12).
Thanks to the many generous donations, FISH also has a Back-to-School program, Smith reports. Christmas basket recipients from the prior year are invited back in August and are provided a backpack containing school supplies, a gift certificate toward the purchase of shoes, and a visit to the Clothes Closet where they are given two new outfits including underwear and socks.
Two programs near and dear to Smith’s heart are the Christmas Program and the Feed the Bus Program. Through sponsorships, the Christmas Program gives families a holiday meal and food to last through the Christmas Break. FISH also provides a gift card for meat, and cleaning and hygiene products. “We help over 200-plus families a year,” Smith reports. The Feed the Bus Program, sponsored by Genisys Credit Union, is held every spring and fall to collect items to stock the Food Pantry.
FISH is comprised of many dedicated volunteers who want to lend a helping hand. According to Smith, there are approximately 60 volunteers currently, almost double the number they had last year. To become a volunteer, call 810.866.4409 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
After 40 years of service to the community, Smith is still going full-steam. “I am where God wants me to be” she says. “I see the need. This is what I want to do and it’s where I want to be.”