F.I.S.H of Santa Rosa is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
F.I.S.H. began in the library of the First United Methodist Church in 1972. At first, if the volunteers received 18 calls for food it was a busy day (now, F.I.S.H serves 100 families per day, 5 days a week). The congregation needed the library so F.I.S.H moved to a little side room, but the Church finally needed that room as well. It was very difficult to find a new place, but Ken Kushner, the Manager at the time, finally got the old firehouse on Benton St. It was city property, and many years later, it was developed into housing and dubbed the Benton Veterans Village. F.I.S.H moved into vacant offices located on McBride Lane near State Farm Drive. They were owned by former Santa Rosa City Council member Dave Berto, and after nearly seven years, a senior housing development was built in that location. That’s when F.I.S.H moved to its present location at 1710 Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa.
Many notable people have been involved with F.I.S.H over the years. Daisy Hansen was the first executive director and she served for 27 years. She dedicated both her resources and energy to help feed the hungry until retiring at the age of 93. The very charismatic Ken Kushner, a highly decorated former U.S. Army Green Beret, volunteered to direct the F.I.S.H. pantry in the early 1990s. After following her husband Kenneth into volunteering, the much-admired Jeanne-Marie Jones volunteered at F.I.S.H for 25 years and retired as executive director in 2017 at the age of 91. She said she was worried about filling Ken Kushner’s big shoes, but she did it well! Jeanne-Marie had the type of personality that made volunteers want to work hard and serve well. The very efficient Kaarin Lee retired as Executive Director after 10 years of remarkable service. She always stressed the importance of making clients feel welcome. She was a North Bay Spirit Award winner in 2020. Dennis Hansen served FISH diligently for many years and Jeanne Marie Jones believes he was the perfect business partner. The 2019 North Bay Spirit Award winner John Dennison and his wife Kathleen served F.I.S.H for many years as well. They are well known & respected for their volunteerism in our community. If you “google” these people, you will find more information about them. There is an obituary for Daisy Hansen and newspaper articles about the others and their involvement with F.I.S.H.
Jennifer Emery joined F.I.S.H in 2016 and took over as executive director in 2020. She is a hard worker, and spends many more hours than most volunteering for F.I.S.H. She is an inspiration and volunteers admire and appreciate her dedication. She came up with the idea of doing drive through distribution during the Covid years, and with the help of a few dedicated volunteers, she was able to continue feeding hungry children and their families during that time. Jennifer wants people to know that she is a single mom who has been on both sides of the door. She firmly believes that it is our calling to help each other wherever and whenever we can.
We also want to recognize our current board members and the volunteers who donate so much time to our cause. Most importantly, we absolutely want to thank all the generous donors who keep us in business and will hopefully do so for another fifty years. Please spread the word about us because we serve hundreds of HUNGRY children and families in our community, and we need your help to help them.