Heart of the Community: South Windsor FISH providing transportation to seniors in need

By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Fri., Mar. 29, 2013
South Windsor FISH
Maureen Hickey (left), co-chair and volunteer of South Windsor FISH, with Patty Jurgelas, who has utilized FISH's transportation services. Photo by Christian Mysliwiec.

When you are a senior citizen who is unable to drive yourself, an unexpected change in schedule can pose big problems. If a doctor, for example, cannot make an appointment and your original ride is not available to drive at the rescheduled time, you might think you are out of luck. But the volunteers at South Windsor FISH, or Friends In Service Here, want to let you know that there is another option.

FISH is a service that provides transportation to medical appointments for those who have no other way to get to their appointment. The organization was founded in Oxford, England, and came to America in 1964. In June 1970, a chapter in South Windsor opened under the sponsorship of the Community Service Council.

Here is how it works: If someone requires transportation services, they call 860-647-3609. They are answered by a call center which covers FISH organizations in South Windsor and Glastonbury. The two organizers of South Windsor FISH, Maureen Hickey and Ruth Griffin, take turns every month scheduling services, pairing appointments with drivers.

The volunteers who offer their driving services to FISH are assigned one day a month in which they provide transportation to those in need, usually making about two or three trips that day. Because on occasion people need rides at a time when the primary driver is busy, another volunteer or two will be available to provide rides as well.

For Hickey, who gives rides in addition to scheduling, volunteering to drive seniors is also a great way to socialize. “I enjoy the people and I make friends,” she said. “I enjoy doing it.”

“FISH fulfills a need that a lot of people don't know about,” said Hickey's friend, Patty Jurgelas, who has also received Hickey's driving services through FISH. According to Jurgelas, FISH compliments the services provided through the South Windsor Community Center, which also gives rides. “The community center does a wonderful job of meeting the needs of seniors here in South Windsor, but there are gaps,” she said. “That is where FISH comes in.”

Jurgelas herself recently had a scheduling conflict in which a doctor had to cancel an appointment. “Going to a physician, you never know what is going on at their office and they might have to cancel for whatever reason,” she said. “I like FISH because I'm usually pretty lucky getting a ride for any need I might have at any given time.”

For seniors in need of transportation, the only criteria is you have to live in South Windsor. Drivers for FISH can provide rides to most medical locations in the area, such as in Manchester, Glastonbury, Hartford, Bloomfield, Wethersfield and Enfield.

Hickey did not even know about FISH until 2004, when she saw an announcement in her church bulletin. She has been volunteering ever since. FISH is always looking for volunteers to either work at the phone service or to drive once a month. For more information about volunteering, contact their phone service at 860-647-3609.

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