Friends in Service of Heroes
Traveling through life is often compared to swimming through unpredictable waters. Sometimes this journey is easy-flowing, complementary to a relaxed state of mind, and reminiscent of stress-free waves of comfort. But other times this expedition is treacherous, indicative of violent seas, and weathering the torrential tides can seem like an unwavering storm. For many veterans, this is their reality and is one often fought in silence. The hero within is seemingly suppressed by the clashing of everyday tasks and visions from the past. This struggle is especially difficult for these humble men and women who are trained to be strong and persevere no matter the situation. But in many instances, once the uniform comes off they become invisible, and these same people also tend to be the last to ask for assistance. This is when FISH steps in.
“So many of our fish are just doing life until we sink our hooks into them and we pull them in, and they become part of this incredible family,” Paul Chapa, chairman and president of FISH says. “We don’t have members; we have families. They have served us it is time for us to serve them.”
So what exactly is FISH? Friends in Service of Heroes was founded after Chapa helped organize gourmet meals in honor of heroic Marines. While personally getting to know many of the veterans, Chapa and his colleagues were moved to support them as they navigate the unsteady waters of survival. They believed that what veterans needed is a network of people who understand and will be there for them—a family who will walk with them, talk with them and simply be present with them.
In 2013, FISH was born, and one of its main objectives was to bridge the gap when the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is unable to meet veterans’ needs. Operating on the guiding principles of health, guidance, support and recognition ensures this organization is helping veterans move forward. In the last four years they have been able to provide veterans and their families with an abundance of offerings that ensure they can maintain quality of life, including a Segway wheelchair; cars; motorized wheelchairs; and getting a house out of foreclosure.
One of the most pivotal of gifts FISH has provided is 15 service dogs, or as Chapa has coined, angels with fur. These companions give respite to veterans who may not be able to sleep or are homebound or those who might have anxiety, and, because of these trials, they are hyperintuitive, hypersensitive and hyperalert. With the help of a specially trained service dog, they now have someone who always has their back, adding joy and years to their lives.
FISH prides itself on helping heroes, but as a not-for-profit group, they rely upon the giving spirit from the community. One of these contributors is Dental Care Center of South KC.
Ginger Stiver, the wife of Dr. Gregory Stiver, had known Chapa for many years when they became Facebook friends and his work with FISH piqued her interest. Coming from a military family, Ginger respected their service but never truly realized their sacrifice until she saw the work that FISH was doing. Although she had actively assisted veterans in other areas, she wanted to do something more personal and closer to home, so she decided to donate a service dog. Dental Care Center of South KC provided the perfect platform. This year, any time they got a new patient referral, they would put $25 in a bucket. By encouraging the staff and patients, they were able to raise $8,500 by October, and, as part of a family carnival day ceremony held in November, provided a service dog to a veteran in need. Ginger notes this was a truly rewarding experience for everyone and that it is something that the office would like to be able to do every year.
“We want to be active in helping the community. I’m excited to be part of something that is so meaningful that can impact some lives,” Ginger says. “One person that is doing something can ignite something in another person to do something good. That person was Paul Chapa.”
It is also Dental Care Center of South KC’s goal to inspire the community to give. Ginger notes three things others can do to get involved:
- 1. Come to the FISH events that are free.
- 2. Donate money directly to FISH by visiting FriendsInServiceOfHeroes.org
- 3. Keep their platform alive by becoming a patient or referring a patient to Dental Care Center of South KC, located at 325 E. 135th St. in Martin City.
Above everything, veterans deserve time and respect and should never be forgotten. FISH and Dental Care Center of South KC are reaching out to let them know their service matters to all. By continuing this mission, this family of FISH is saving lives.