Giving Thanks: FISH volunteer continues to give back

Tjefferson@vagazette.com
FISH volunteer continues to give back

Gene Bruss has always been interested in giving back in some degree.

"I always knew that when I retired, I would want to do things that would help the community," Bruss said. "I wanted to stay busy and do things that would benefit the community and make me feel good as well."

Bruss, who is now the president of FISH, was a teacher for 41 years and spent his time in Williamsburg at Berkeley Middle School.

FISH is an all-volunteer, non-for-profit organization that provides food, clothing and houseware to people in need. Located on Waller Mill Road, FISH is open Monday through Friday and provided about 153,000 meals last year, Bruss said .

"It's a big responsibility to drive this train around," said Bruss, who also serves as a FISH volunteer.

Bruss can remember his first day of training at FISH.

"The first time I came and met the volunteer coordinator, they were shorthanded," Bruss said. "My training day consisted of 'we need help.' It doesn't take a lot of skill (to help others). That is what hooked me."

FISH gets referrals for people in need from churches or larger non profit organizations. After the referral process, they identify specific needs for the person and provide them with essential items.

Shelves are stocked with items such as canned foods and hygiene products. FISH also has a separate area with clothing for people of all ages and sizes.

Four years ago after he retired from teaching, Bruss said he chose to help with FISH because everybody was a volunteer and nobody gets paid.

"I looked around and to me I felt like (at FISH) I was dealing directly with people and having a direct impact," Bruss said. "When they come in here and they need food, clothing and houseware.… We give it to them."

Bruss along with the other countless volunteers spends his time sorting food, washing clothes and restocking shelves.

When Bruss isn't volunteering, he is driving his neighbors to doctors appointments and ushering at Williamsburg United Methodist Church.

As FISH president, Bruss' job also requires that he fundraise for the not-for-profit organization.

Despite the heavy workload, Bruss doesn't seem himself as any more important than the next volunteer.

"Everybody that works here, thinks everybody else does more than they do," Bruss said. "We all give it to the community.

Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.

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