Faith in Serving Humanity was prayed into fruition in March of 1991. The Monroe Area Ministerial Association (MAMA) was holding their monthly meeting. This particular month they were meeting at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and were hosted by Rev. Foley Beach. In the records of the first meeting, the following churches were represented: First Baptist of Monroe, St. Alban’s, Church of God, Ray Memorial, Praise Center, First Christian Church, New Hope, First A.B., St. Anna's, First United Methodist Church. This list has grown to more than 50 churches all across Walton County.
The pastors discussed the intense amount of poverty and demands for financial assistance from the area churches. It was stated that it would be nice to come together and have one entity to provide food and finances to assist those in need. The churches would support with food, funds and volunteers. This would allow a better service to those in need as well as being a better steward of the resources God has blessed us with. An application process would be put into place to make sure funds were being used for true needs. It was noted that a little thrift store could help pay for overhead and provide free items to families in need.
FISH was officially incorporated in1993 with this statement of purpose:
To unite the efforts of churches in Walton county to minister to the disadvantaged. To minister to the whole person - body, soul, and mind.
To increase our unity as Churches of various denominations and to demonstrate to the community our common Christian concern for the disadvantaged.
To be better stewards of the resources of money and time that our members contribute to ministry
Knox Bell served as Chairman. With directors listed as Judy Toole, Gail Kelly, Jerry Connell, Terry Fulcher, and Claudine Mays
Founding Pastors are as follows:
Rev. Dr. Craig Bowman - First Baptist of Monroe
Rev. Kenneth Young - Church of God
Rev. Dr. Foley Beach - St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
Rev. Tony Dyer - First Christian
Rev. Tom Atkins - Monroe First United Methodist Church
Rev. Jerry Connell - St. Anna's Catholic Church
Rev. Russell Davis - The Praise Center
Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Leist - Ray Memorial Presbyterian
In addition, here are the names of those lay people who were very active in the initial work of fundraising, spreading the word and setting up operations
Faye Lyle Dusseau
The first building was a little store front located next to Jeffcoat’s Barbershop. The thrift store was at the front, food pantry on the side, waiting area and office in back. The Felker family allowed FISH to use the facility rent-free. The utilities and renovations were the responsibility of FISH. The initial assistance was mainly, food, clothing, utilities and prescriptions. The Lord’s ministry of FISH began to grow. The Felker Foundation gave land and funds to start a building fund.
The FISH Executive Committee and volunteers began working on funding to build a new facility at Madison Avenue & Mill Street. FISH began serving in the new building in 2001. A thrift store, food pantry, and offices were located in the same facility. FISH moved into the new building, and it was debt free.
The thrift store was blessed beyond measure and moved into a much larger, rent-free building also given to FISH for use by the Felker family. Later FISH purchased the Old Coca Cola plant on Spring Street for the thrift store. A thrift store in Loganville was opened in 2009. The in-kind donations are such a blessing.
All proceeds from the FISH thrift stores pay all operating costs of all aspects of FISH, FISH4Kids, and FISH Medical and Dental. 100% of all financial donations are used to assist someone in need.
In 2005, FISH stepped out in faith to supply the children of Walton County with a daily lunch. FISH4KIDS was born out of the concern was that free and reduced-lunch children would not have a meal during the summer. Currently FISH4Kids provides 2,300 meals each weekday to the children across our community. With the help of many volunteers, lunches are delivered door-to-door.
This program has now expanded for the last few years to include the Backpack Buddies program which currently provides close to 1,000 packs of food for the weekend. The Backpack Buddies program places nutritious, kid-friendly food into the backpacks of the most at-risk children to help them have a seamless source of good food.
Over the years the FISH ministry witnessed the immense number of individuals without means to see a doctor, dentist or even pay for their medication. FISH has assisted individuals with their medications since the opening in 2001. Again, God showed FISH a need and we prayerfully put into motion for the opening of FISH Medical and Dental, which opened in 2012. FISH Dental is located at 226 Alcovy Street in building F, and FISH Medical is located in building D.
The backbone to all that is accomplished through FISH, FISH4Kids and FISH Medical and Dental is our servant-minded volunteers who give graciously their time, talents and resources. We continue to do the will of God and seek His counsel and wisdom.