TORRINGTON-- When Kathrina Antwi arrived from Ghana in Torrington nearly four years ago, she found herself a recent immigrant relying on the services offered by FISH Inc., the nonprofit agency responsible for providing food and shelter to locals in need.
So successful was her own experience with FISH that Antwi transformed her status from that of an immigrant to owner of the successful Kathrina's Fitness Studio in downtown Torrington.
"At that time in my life, I was working four jobs and raising four kids by myself," Antwi said. "FISH gave me food every other week and toys for my children at Christmas."
Thankful for the blessings provided by FISH, Antwi sponsored a kickboxing/exercise food drive Wednesday night in the St. Francis of Assisi gymnasium.
The focus of the event, Antwi said, was to collect nonperishable food items and unwrapped children's gifts for FISH and the Torrington Fire Department's Christmas for Children toy drive for needy local kids.
"The help FISH gave me encouraged me to do better for myself and my family," Antwi said. "I promised God that if I stopped begging for food, I would help others in need."
Entry into the event was easy - for every donation made, Antwi invited the donor to participate in a free kickboxing or exercise class.
"This was a wonderful opportunity for people to show their support for a big group of unlucky people," Antwi said. "What a great benefit for FISH, and a great benefit for people to exercise their health, body, mind and soul."
Judging by the number of needy households served annually by FISH, organizers were anticipating plenty of exercising and plenty of donations - and they weren't disappointed. In total, more than 50 local residents dropped off donations, and a few calories, too.
"This is a wonderful surprise," said FISH Executive Director Debbie Shapiro, who was thrown off guard by Antwi's generosity. "We're constantly running out of food. We just can't keep anything on the shelves - and it's been like that for a couple of years now."
In addition to providing holiday toys for some 700 children and sacks of groceries for the needy, FISH maintains a 35-bed shelter and offers emergency fuel assistance during the winter months.
Due to successful organizing of the event, which received assistance from St. Francis School Development Director Marilyn Alduini Plaskiewicz, who secured the school gymnasium at no cost, Antwi hopes to make Wednesday's event a regular one. "I'd like to do it every six months," Antwi said. "God willing."
Jamie Preston Olmstead can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]