FRIENDS FISH TO FIGHT HUNGER
By: Cortney Gurr (Boca Helping Hands) What’s better than a hobby to enjoy? A hobby that doubles as a way to feed the hungry! Six years ago, fishermen and friends Harrison Konsker and Maccabee Herman founded a nonprofit to feed local families with fresh local fish, caught “right off the coast.” Their organization is the largest source of fish donations made to Boca Helping Hands (BHH), having donated more than 2,500 pounds of fish to date.
Konsker was an avid lacrosse player until middle school, when he was diagnosed with aggressive fibromatosis, a rare condition that can involve swelling, benign tumors, and difficulty using legs, feet, arms, hands or other affected areas. After learning that he would no longer be able to play his favorite sport, Herman introduced him to fishing. Out on the water almost every weekend, they consistently brought back more fish than their family and friends could eat, with the leftovers eventually going bad in their freezers. This waste motivated them to find a place to donate their fish to help local families rather than let it spoil, and thus, Fillet for Friends was born.
In 2014, Konsker called BHH, asking if they could donate their fish through their newly founded nonprofit. BHH’s Food Center manager was excited to partner in this way, especially since the donations would come already fileted, vacuum sealed, and iced. Starting off small with 10-20 pounds of donations per month, their donations soon grew to 50-60 pounds at a time.
With enthusiasm growing, Konsker and Herman began pitching the concept to local fishing tournament captains and fishermen, requesting their participation in donating their tournament catches. The first tournament they attended was the Miami Sportfish Tournament, where captains were excited to donate to the cause. They attended that Saturday with a large cooler – the largest one they had, thinking it would be incredible if it were filled. After only 45 minutes, their cooler space was filled with 150 pounds of fish, and they had to stop collecting. After such a successful experience, they refocused their efforts on targeting local tournaments for more donations – and they learned to bring more coolers with them! Fillet for Friends has since attended tournaments everywhere from south Miami to Sarasota, collecting over 3,000 pounds of fish – ninety percent of which has been donated to BHH.
Since the COVID-19 epidemic began in early March, all locally scheduled tournaments – typically 48 every summer – have been canceled, aside from one planned for early August. Because of this, Fillet for Friends has returned to their fishing roots. With 10-12 volunteers on their team, they are able to do what they love and help their community while still following social distancing guidelines.
Even after six years of fishing for fun while feeding those in need, Konsker’s passion is still as fresh as it was back in 2014. The idea originated out of the love in his heart, saying, “The best thing is being able to help the community while doing something I love. I’m passionate about [South Florida’s] local fish and the surplus of local catch, knowing that I can help the community.”