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VIA and FISH 2


VIA receives update from Doylestown FISH Laurie Livesay Schutt For the past 127 years, members of the Village Improvement Association (VIA) of Doylestown have actively worked to improve the health and welfare of Bucks County residents. Since launching the Neighbors in Need NOW campaign in March, the situation in which many Bucks residents find themselves has not improved. Multiple U.S and global economic factors are contributing to overall inflation and the cost of goods, directly impacting the community, especially vulnerable community members. This situation is not limited to just COVID-19 or the Ukraine war. Interested in hearing first-hand how current challenges are impacting the operations of local social service agencies, VIA members have been meeting with different organizations. VIA members recently sat down for a conversation with Frank Gallagher, outgoing president of Doylestown FISH and with Marijane (Mimi) Harris, who is taking the helm of this important Bucks County nonprofit. Doylestown FISH, is one of the several local social service agencies that the VIA supports. Said Harris, “Doylestown FISH is unique in that we are the only agency offering immediate short-term assistance or one-time grants in the Doylestown-Central Bucks region. At FISH, our ultimate goal is to address financial challenges so that our clients, all community members, are able to work, go to school and stay in the Central Bucks Region. And other Bucks County social service organizations often look to FISH to help with specific cases.” With the flow of government subsidies during Covid, the numbers of calls for help declined in 2021. But with Covid’s continued presence and a war raging in the Ukraine, FISH has had to increase the amount of aid it grants. “We’ve always had specific amounts that we offer for gasoline, heating fuel and lodging,” explained Harris. “However, recently we boosted our housing assistance from $400 to $500 and food vouchers from $25 to $100 – an amount closer to the minimum needed to feed a family of four for a week. With gasoline prices skyrocketing, no longer can you fill a gas tank for $25, so we increased that amount to a more realistic $50. And the calls for help with gasoline have more than doubled recently.” FISH volunteers answer calls 12 hours a day (from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.), 365 days a year. They maintain the client database, keep the books and set the schedule each month. According to Gallagher, “To maximize our ability to help, FISH has cultivated connections with the motels, supermarkets, restaurants and fuel oil dealers. These businesses know that if they provide the requested goods or services to a person referred to them by FISH their bill will be paid promptly.” “In the past year,” recalled Harris, “we had one elderly woman, living on fixed income in Central Bucks, who didn’t have enough money to pay for her heating oil. FISH worked with her to gain funding through LIHEAP (the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program managed by the Department of Health and Human Services), while also purchasing 100 gallons of fuel oil to tie her over and keep her warm.” Law enforcement frequently calls FISH for help with clients identified as “homeless” who would be considered law breakers because they are “trespassing” if they can’t find shelter. FISH also supports low-income, out-of-town clients with upcoming court dates in need of a place to stay. Sometimes FISH is asked to help when a client must leave his/her place of residence due to domestic violence, eviction or an uninhabitable property. About 42% of FISH funding goes to helping with temporary shelter, and 25% helps those who have fallen behind on their rent payments. While approximately 14% goes to addressing food insecurity. Even with programs like SNAP, families often still need help to feed their families. Believing that no one should be cold, FISH will pay for 100 gallons of fuel oil in an emergency. Another 12% of funding goes to help with utilities. And in 2021 and 2022, FISH paid for clothing from a local thrift shop; offered rides to medical appointments; helped pay for weekly hotel stays and financed auto repair; prescriptions and referrals to specialist agencies. VIA President Barbara Ann Price said, “Initially, we launched the Neighbors in Need NOW campaign because our major fundraiser, the Bucks County Designer House and Gardens is delayed until fall and we wanted to assure that we could continue to support our local social service agencies. “Please join us in supporting our community through our Neighbors in Need NOW Campaign,” Price said. “To help, you can go to or send a check made payable to the VIA at VIA Office, attn: Administration – 2nd Floor, 595 W. State St., Doylestown, PA 18901” Laurie Schutt, 215-264-3024 or Pat Urban (609) 254-3658