FISH has no paid staff. All its work is done by a group of volunteers numbering at various times between about 14 and 20. Most of the volunteers staff the FISH telephone number, serving between two and four days a month. Almost all their work is done over the telephone, and they seldom leave their homes on FISH business. A few volunteers drive people to local destinations like doctors’ offices and the hospital.

    We occasionally receive a call from a boy scout who needs a project, someone who is required to perform community service, or a person who sometimes has a few hours a week to spare. Because of the nature of the work of FISH, we need mature, experienced and dedicated workers who are in the organization for the long term, therefore unfortunately we are not able to use offers of short-term assistance. Most of our volunteers have been with us for many years.


    A FISH telephone volunteer is usually assigned to between two and four days each month to receive calls from people in need referred through the answering service. A volunteer should serve with some minimal frequency in order to maintain familiarity with the businesses that help us, the social service agencies who refer clients to us, other FISH workers, and changes in methods of operation. Therefore there is a limit to the number of workers we can have at any one time. However, there are occasional openings for new workers, and persons interested in volunteering should call our answering service at 215-348-7172 and ask to speak to the president. Persons willing to drive clients to local destinations on a one-time basis are also welcome.

FISH volunteers become a volunteer

    We provide, within our means, food, a motel room, help with rent, utility bills, a bus ticket, or any other emergency short-term need that may arise.


    A person in need or a counselor at a social service agency calls the FISH answering service at 215-348-7172 and briefly explains the problem to the operator. That information is transmitted to the FISH volunteer on duty for that day. The FISH worker then calls the needy person or the counselor to get more details about the person, such as the last address, telephone number, employment status, family relationships, other possible sources of help, how long the assistance will be needed, whether a contribution by FISH will solve the problem, etc. The volunteer also consults the computerized reports from other volunteers to determine what help has been provided in the past. The volunteer may call other sources of information like an employer, a landlord, a family member or a social service organization. Using all this information the volunteer determines whether help should be provided, what kind of help and in what amount. The worker then calls the business that can provide the help, like a restaurant, a supermarket or a motel, and makes the necessary arrangements. At the end of the day the worker prepares a report about the day’s activities and emails it to all the other volunteers.

    Not every request is granted. A caller from outside our service area may be referred to another FISH chapter like those in Pennridge (Sellersville-Perkasie), North Penn (Ambler) or Jenkintown. A person asking for food may be referred to a local food pantry. The worker may learn that the person is calling from the home of a friend and then surmise that very likely the friend would allow the caller to stay there overnight rather than having FISH pay for a motel room. Many callers requesting shelter actually need long-term housing that FISH can not provide. But in the majority of cases the FISH worker does grant the help the caller is asking for, and sometimes more. Unfortunately in every year there are dry times when the bank account of FISH is almost bare and it becomes necessary to deny many callers or put a moratorium on the more expensive types of help like assistance with rent or utility bills.

services how FISH operates

    FISH provides emergency assistance to people in need when no other timely assistance is available.


    We seek to follow the example of Christ by helping the poorest and weakest members of our community. Although FISH receives much of its funding from local churches, it provides help regardless of religious affiliation, race, gender or any other personal factor.


    FISH serves the nine municipalities within the Central Bucks School District (the Boroughs of Doylestown, New Britain and Chalfont, and the Townships of Doylestown, Plumstead, Buckingham, New Britain, Warwick and Warrington) as well as some adjacent areas like Solebury, New Hope, Tinicum and Bedminster.


    Our name is an English translation of the ancient Greek word for fish (ICHTHUS). The letters of that word are the first letters of the words in the title ”Jesus Christ God’s Son Savior”. For this reason a sketch of a fish was used by early Christians as a symbol of faith.


    On a Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1973 a group of people gathered in the meeting room at Salem United Church of Christ in Doylestown. They included people from many churches in the area including the Mennonite, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Methodist, Catholic and Lutheran churches. They had heard about a movement called FISH that had originated at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Oxford, England, in 1961. The movement had spread throughout the United Kingdom and then to the Episcopal Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts. From there it had spread throughout the United States. The various FISH local organizations operated in different ways but all were dedicated to the Christian mission of serving the needy members of society.

    The people gathered in Doylestown that day decided to form a chapter of FISH that would have as its method of operation the providing of emergency one-time help. Officers were elected. Arrangements were made for an answering service to receive calls from persons in need. A schedule was made up assigning a volunteer to each day to receive calls from the answering service and to arrange for the requested assistance if it is warranted.

    Since its founding FISH has grown dramatically, although by the standards of most social service agencies it is still small. Its procedures have been made more efficient so that now, for example, at the end of each day the volunteer assigned to that day sends a report of the day’s activities by email to all the other volunteers.

    One reason for the growth and the number of requests received by FISH is that it has become well known among other social service agencies. For example, Aldie (the drug and alcohol treatment facility) may have made arrangements for a client to go to a drug residential program but she cannot get in until the following day. The Lenape Valley Foundation (the mental health facility) may have a client who has no food or money. A police officer may find a woman wandering the roads with no place to go. The Bucks County Opportunity Council (the anti-poverty agency) may have no money in its budget for a client who is just about out of fuel oil. All these agencies may call FISH for the emergency, one-time, help that FISH can provide.

    FISH has also developed connections with the providers of many goods its clients need, such as 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.

    FISH has come a long way since that 1973 afternoon at Salem Church. In every year since then there has been an increase in the number of requests received and responded to, the amount of contributions received, and the amount of money expended for clients’ needs.


    Download the 2016 Annual Report

mission territory symbol history annual report