Friends in Sonoma Helping provides rent assistance, meals to families affected by pandemic

Like true and caring friends, the volunteers of F.I.S.H. have for a half-century been there for Sonoma Valley residents needing a hand.

Devoted to community service and supported financially by valley residents who value their mission, the good Samaritans who staff Friends in Sonoma Helping provide food, car rides to medical appointments, assistance paying for rent and utilities and more to neighbors unable to make it entirely on their own.

“We’ve been very busy for the last couple of months,” said F.I.S.H.’s Sandy Piotter. Demand for food and rent assistance has grown sharply as a result of the myriad consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, volunteers hosted one of their regular food distributions.

Along with a rise in demand for groceries, the 120 F.I.S.H. workers have witnessed a dramatic rise in requests for help from Sonoma Valley people who struggle to pay their rent.

Amid the financial fallout of the pandemic, the nonprofit has provided to 300 families 50 percent of what they owe for a month’s rent.

The dollars for those charitable gifts to families have come to F.I.S.H. from a variety of sources: foundations, repeat donations from supporters throughout Sonoma Valley and surprise checks from people of good will who live far away.

“During the (2017) fire, we received contributions from all over the country,” said Piotter, the coordinator of F.I.S.H. As the organization toils to meet needs exacerbated by the pandemic, she said, encouragement arrived in the form of a donation from Maine.

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