FISHing for volunteers

Every once in a while, an American president says something that virtually everyone can agree with, left, right or center, red, blue or chartreuse, young, old or in between.

This is what our president recently said about this week:

“Through countless acts of kindness, generosity and service, Americans recognize that we are all bound together – that we move this country forward by giving of ourselves to others and caring for those around us. Every day, Americans carry forward the tradition of service embedded in our character as a people. And as we celebrate National Volunteer Week, we embrace our shared responsibility to one another and recommit to the task of building a more perfect Union.”

President Obama probably doesn’t know Sandy Piotter, but he should. Because she is one of the people he’s talking about. Piotter is co-chair of the FISH Steering Committee, she is a walking advertisement for Friends in Sonoma Helping, and this is the message she delivered to us this week:

“For a number of years, kidney dialysis has not been available in Sonoma Valley, so FISH has been transporting people to Napa and Petaluma. Here is our weekly schedule for Napa only:

“Every Tuesday and Thursday, a FISH volunteer leaves home at 5:45 a.m. to pick up three people to take to Napa for 7:30 a.m. dialysis appointments.

“At 8:30 a.m., a different FISH volunteer picks up three other people to bring to Napa for dialysis. The three brought for the 7:30 a.m. appointments are ready to return to Sonoma at 10:30 a.m., so we try to have the 8:30 driver bring the early three back to Sonoma.

“Another FISH volunteer goes to Napa to pick up one person who is finished at 2 p.m. Yet another FISH volunteer goes to Napa to pick up another who finishes at 4 p.m.. This also happen on Saturday.

“Three days each week – more than 200 miles a day, or 600 miles a week – just for kidney dialysis in Napa.

“FISH now provides well over 2,300 car rides each year – nearly 1,800 for out-of-town medical appointments, including radiation, chemotherapy and dialysis.

“Of the people we transport to Napa, one is visually impaired, a number are our Hispanic neighbors, and we have a waiting list. We, quite literally, are keeping these people alive. What a volunteer opportunity – the satisfaction of knowing that your efforts are keeping people alive.”

There are other ways to volunteer: besides the drivers who are constantly needed, FISH needs dispatchers to take phone calls from the FISH answering service; the Clothes Closet needs volunteers to sort and size clothing and stock the shelves and racks; the food operation needs people with vehicles to pick up food from stores and agencies at various locations; people are also needed to stock the food room, and to deliver food twice a month. Translators are also needed. If you want to help, call FISH at 996-0111.

Now, a final word from our president:

“Across our country, volunteers open doors of opportunity, pave avenues of success, fortify their communities and lay the foundation for tomorrow’s growth and prosperity. They are often equipped with few resources and gain little recognition, yet because of their service, our country is a better and a stronger force for good.”