Fish Inc. – Dunellen Area helps growing number of post-Ida homeless

When the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused massive devastation in New Jersey earlier this year, Fish Inc. – Dunellen Area, a food pantry and clothing distribution organization, came to the aid of many affected by historic flooding in central Jersey.

An example is a family of four who lost everything when their house was boarded up due to flooding. They have not yet received funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so they currently live with relatives in a one-bedroom apartment. The parents each have two jobs to make ends meet, and Fish Inc. helps them with food, clothing and school supplies.

“Ida has taken a toll here,” said Lisa Couch, president of Fish Inc. “Dunellen has been hit hard. People have lost their homes and are living in hotel rooms or in their vehicles. We are happy to provide them with food, but many of them do not have refrigerators or kitchens. Many people are still suffering and struggling. It’s sad. We try to do what we can for them.

Needy Case Fund 2021:How to help your neighbors in need this holiday season

In 2019, Fish Inc. was serving over 500 families each month. That number fell to less than 100 when COVID-19 hit the scene, possibly because people were getting government stimulus checks, Couch said. But the number of people asking for help is on the rise again, with more than 200 families asking for help. Much of the clientele lately is made up of seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.

“Every day we have someone signing up,” Couch said. “We are seeing people we haven’t seen since pre-pandemic. They are struggling to make ends meet. We hear of more homeless people. I have about 12 people right now looking for an apartment or room to rent. There is no place left for homeless men to go.

Founded in 1969, Fish Inc. is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that helps those who fall through the cracks of public assistance. It serves residents of Dunellen, Middlesex, Piscataway, South Plainfield, Edison, Highland Park and Green Brook.

A team of 12 volunteers operates the food hall on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and the third Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The clothing room is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and the third Saturday of the month from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., except July and August. New clients should call 732-356-0081 for screening and appointment. Walk-ins are not accepted and all clients and volunteers must wear a face mask.

Once a month, customers receive two bags of frozen meat and three bags of groceries tailored to their needs, such as baby food or items for special dietary requirements. They can also choose other items, including pastries, bread, and pet food. Vacation packages are provided for families at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and include food to prepare a traditional meal with a turkey, chicken or ham. Clothing services were provided to approximately 5,000 children and 1,500 adults, including blankets and bedding.

Fish Inc. depends entirely on donations to carry out its programs. Support typically comes from local organizations, civic groups, businesses, places of worship and the community. Donations of non-perishables are always needed, and low-salt, sugar-free, and gluten-free items are especially helpful.

“What we need most right now are winter coats – men’s, women’s and children’s – new or lightly used, but they need to be washable,” Couch said. “We particularly need clothes for boys aged 5 and over. Our trash cans are empty.

Fish Inc. is located at 456 New Market Road in Piscataway. Clothing donations are appreciated but can only be accepted when the locker room is open. Any items left on the porch will be thrown away. Checks can be mailed to Fish Inc. – Dunellen Area, PO Box 8565, Piscataway, NJ 08855-8006. For more information, visit

How to Support the Needy Case Fund

From November 28 to December 5, the Courier News, Home News Tribune and are focusing on 11 organizations serving central Jersey as part of the annual Needy Cases fund.

The Needy Cases Fund is a central Jersey holiday tradition dating back over seven decades. The community service project was sponsored by the Home News Tribune and its predecessor, the Daily Home News, in conjunction with the New Brunswick Lions Club. In 2021, the Courier News will once again join the Home News Tribune in sponsoring the charity.

Send donations (checks payable to Needy Cases Fund or cash) to: Needy Cases Fund, Home News Tribune/Courier News, 92 E. Main St., Suite 202, Somerville, NJ 08876. Please do not issue checks payable to the Courier News Wish Book Program this year. Please indicate with a note if you would like to be recognized in a summary story about the program, or if you would like to remain anonymous.

Donations will be gratefully accepted until the end of December.

For questions, contact Carolyn Sampson at 908-243-6624 or [email protected]

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