WILLIAMSBURG — FISH, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping others in the community, in the middle of March 2022 completed a big move from its old facilities at 312 Waller Mill Road to 312-314 Second Street.
Whether someone is in need of a meal, clothing, houseware items, or hygiene products, the group of local volunteers is there to help residents of the greater Williamsburg area. The new location provides FISH with larger dedicated spaces for both its food pantry and its clothing closet.
There is even a bus stop at the property courtesy of the Williamsburg Area Transit Authority (WATA). The new test stop is on WATA’s Route 3: Merrimac Trail. The bus makes stops at FISH at 10:41 a.m., 12:41 p.m., and 2:41 p.m.
After outgrowing its previous space, and simultaneously adapting to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has a lot to celebrate after successfully moving into its new location. The renovations of the property’s two adjacent buildings speak volumes of the community support for FISH.
Before volunteers can fully mark the turn of a new chapter in the organization’s history books, however, they must mourn the loss of someone who was instrumental in bringing FISH to Williamsburg in the first place.
In May, only a couple of months after the move, news broke of the loss of one of FISH’s founders — Adeline “Ling” Ngo. Ngo was 90 years old when she passed away peacefully on May 29 at her home.
“Ling Ngo was one of four women that started this,” said the President of FISH, Inc., Jack Trotter, in an interview with WYDaily. “Ling Ngo was the real deal. She had the vision that created the organization. Ling read about the efforts of an Anglican priest in the U.K. who created an organization called FISH. She was inspired by that story and went to the Priest at St. Jerome, a catholic church in Newport News, and said, ‘Can I start something like that here?’ He said, ‘absolutely.'”
Ngo arrived with her family in Williamsburg in 1974 and around the same time she joined the congregation at St. Bede Catholic Church. There, she met other like-minded individuals, and together they formed the original group of volunteers that eventually became FISH, Inc of Williamsburg.
“They started it at St. Bede’s and for a couple of years they operated out of a church basement, and then they started to do it out of their homes,” said Trotter. “Finally, St. Bede said, ‘go forth and do great things, you’re now a separate stand-alone organization.’ A few years later we got our 501c3, and we’ve been a nonprofit ever since. I would guess that right now, we have about 140 plus non-paid volunteers, including the board of directors.”
Since Ngo and other early volunteers began operating as an independently-run nonprofit, the organization has expanded and has been deeply involved in the Greater Williamsburg Community.
“Since we were officially turned loose by St. Bede we’ve become a non-ecumenical organization, and what we like to say is that we’re not supported by one church, we’re supported by all the churches,” Trotter said.
The organization also works with universities and schools in the surrounding region for various food drives throughout the year. This includes Ngo’s Alma mater, the College of William & Mary (W&M). She graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology and she received Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) academic honors.
“Last Summer, Toano Middle School came to FISH with somewhere around 24 hundred cans of food,” said Trotter. “We also have a great relationship with the men’s gymnastics team at the College of William & Mary. Their assistant coach’s wife is actually a FISH volunteer. So they show up, and they’ve got two or three thousand cans of food.”
Ling Ngo and the other founders have laid a strong foundation for FISH that continues to be built upon today. Those close to Ngo will remember her as someone who loved family, friends, faith, life, and the community.
Ngo’s family asks that in lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to FISH in memory of Ling Ngo.