Letter from Our Executive Director
Dear Fisherman’s Mark Community,
My meditation over the last few weeks has been, “Hurricane Ida was strong, but we are stronger.” I’d like to take this opportunity to share with all of you everything that has happened since the devastating flood in Lambertville.
First, let’s talk about our clients: “Help When Help Is Needed” is our mission and help is needed now probably more than ever. Many homes and apartments on the north side of town have been condemned due to flooding. Some of these displaced residents are our clients, many of whom were already struggling to pay their rent. They have very little and what little they have is now gone. I would estimate that of the roughly 1200 clients that we serve on an ongoing basis, about 50 families have been affected. One family came to us after swimming through flood waters with only the clothes on their backs – the mother didn’t even have shoes – seeking assistance in finding housing. They are currently in a local hotel for the time being.
We have been actively contacting our clients and assessing each individual situation in an effort to help fund basic needs, as well as guide them towards the best resources available to find housing.
If you’re interested in helping we are currently focused on trying to restore basic living necessities that have been damaged or destroyed in the storm. Monetary donations will be used to purchase store gift cards. Alternatively, donations of gift cards from Walmart, Marshalls, Kohls, Uber, Lyft, grocery stores, etc. can be dropped off. Gift cards will be distributed among those clients needing to rebuild.
Now let’s talk about Fisherman’s Mark, since we were not immune to the flooding: The Hibernia Fire Station, where we have resided since 2017, succumbed to four feet of water when the Swan Creek overflowed. It ruined a large portion of the pantry’s back stock of food items. Soil erosion around the building’s foundation caused the rear deck to wash away, and there was minor flooding on the main level. Enough damage was done that we have to relocate.
The City of Lambertville was able to move quickly on identifying a new location for us: Homestead Farm Market right up the street! The market building has enough space for the food pantry, storage, as well as a small area for staff to privately meet with clients.
We were able to engage a volunteer team of about 20 people to transport the entire stock of food items to our new location. The team worked throughout the holiday weekend emptying out the old location and setting up the new one. The pantry was ready to serve clients during regular pantry hours the day after Labor Day.
It’s just hitting me how special it is, for us to have had our own little disaster, yet to be up and running in a new location in one weekend. It speaks volumes about our commitment to our clients and your commitment to us. We couldn’t have done it with your ongoing support, volunteerism, care and concern. Please let us know how you all are doing and if there’s anything Fisherman’s Mark can do to help.
Hurricane Ida: What we have accomplished in her aftermath:
For our Clients and the community:
- Contacted 85 clients to determine what services they would need in the wake of Hurricane Ida
- Worked with other community partners, assisting displaced families who were in need
- Distributed $7,500 worth of gift cards for these families so that they could start to rebuild
- Provided food and household supplies for over 1,000 people
- Created an FAQ page on our website with essential information on where to get help
- Increased the food pantry operation from 2 hours to 8 hours daily immediately following the flood
- Coordinated with local, state, and other organizations, then ushered clients through the process of obtaining local, state and federal resources
- Coordinated groups of volunteers to assist community members in need
At Fisherman’s Mark:
- Cleared and sorted stock of food items housed in Hibernia basement, kept what was salvageable, dumpstered what was destroyed in flood
- With the help of volunteers, moved entire pantry operation to new location at Homestead Market
- Transported items from Lambertville Public School Food Drive to our new location
Volunteer Spotlight: Cathy Sandford And Rene Marinich
While most Americans received their 2020 and 2021 stimulus payments easily through direct deposit, some of Fisherman’s Mark’s most vulnerable clients did not. Their incomes were too low to file taxes and they did not receive other benefits like Social Security payments that would have triggered the stimulus payments. Most of these clients did not even know they were eligible for benefits.
Enter Cathy Sandford and Rene Marinich. Cathy and Rene are close friends who met around five years ago through their work as certified volunteer tax preparers with the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. They bonded over all they had in common: nearing retirement, new to the area, involved with children and grandchildren, and committed to helping others. As Rene puts it, “I feel so fortunate about the life and privileges I’ve enjoyed and believe it’s critical to pay it forward.”
Working through the United Way, Cathy, Rene, and other dedicated volunteers like them offer free tax preparation and filing assistance to low income taxpayers with disabilities, the elderly, and those whose knowledge of the English language is limited.
Over the course of the pandemic, Rene and Cathy helped Fisherman’s Mark clients file the back tax returns that made them eligible to apply for and receive their stimulus payments. The result: over $10,000 in stimulus payments received.
As if this weren’t enough, Rene and Cathy also work in Fisherman’s Mark’s pantry, handle administrative tasks, go on food-pick-ups. In fact, they pretty much step forward whenever asked.
Both women extol the multiplier effect when community groups share expertise. Says Cathy, “Most organizations and individuals have strengths and relationships within the community that they have developed over time. It’s awesome when they can partner to bring their respective strengths together for the greater good.”
We know you join us in thanking Rene and Cathy for their exceptional dedication to the wellbeing of our community.