Free Daily Headlines


Set your text size: A A A

FISH, volunteer organization that transported elderly to medical appointments, folds

FISH, a faith-based volunteer organization that spent 43 years driving those without transportation to medical appointments, has dissolved after trying unsuccessfully to recruit enough drivers to continue.

"When COVID struck in early 2020, FISH operations were suspended," Glenn Forsythe, a FISH board member, former president and volunteer driver himself for 10 years, said in an email to the Lightning. "Recent efforts to restart were unable to attract enough volunteers to effectively operate.  The Board reluctantly decided to file dissolution documents with the state and will turn over remaining assets to the Community Foundation. Board members expressed appreciation to all active and former FISH volunteers."

A video appeal posted on Facebook by Grace Lutheran Church said the organization needed 24 drivers and 15 callers — those who took requests for service and called a driver — but only had 14 drivers and five callers.

The organization — the acronym stands for Forgiven, I Serve Him — was started by churches in 1979 and drew many of its volunteers from the faith community. Many were older retirees themselves who eventually  aged out of the ability to drive and help the elderly into and out of cars and into a medical or dental office.

"We reluctantly wrapped it up and turned over assets over to the Community Foundation," Forsythe said in an interview. FISH had received a donation of $100,000 several years ago and, after turning it over to the Community Foundation to invest, used the assets to cover operating costs.

"That's how FISH operated for a number of years," he said. "We turned over about $15,000," the remaining amount in its account, to the foundation. 

"We stopped driving because of Covid because of the close contact with the passengers," he said. The service never got back to its original corps of volunteers after the pandemic set in. "But we did drive one guy — he went to dialysis three times a week — and he finally passed away. We made an effort to restart it but we just could not find enough. We needed drivers and callers and we couldn't get quite enough people."

Community Foundation President McCray Benson said he had been in contact with FISH leaders before the governing board voted to dissolve.

“I met with them a few months ago and was hoping to arrange a way to pass it along to the Council on Aging or try to pursue is there a program that would be able to pick that up and continue,” he said.

Transportation for needy people “is a huge issue” that could not be totally met by a group the size of FISH. “But had just taken the simple step of doing what we can and working with one or two clients at a time. They did a good job. They couldn’t handle everybody but they did some.”

Benson said churches, nonprofits, hospitals and others could all be part of the solution.

“Over time there’s been a number of groups that do try to do some transportation,” he said. “We might ought to get those groups together in a room and say, ‘What are we going to do?’”