“Every day is a feel good day when you are working with the homeless and hungry,” says Deirdre Houlihan DiCara ’77 about her work as executive director of FISH/Friends in Service to Humanity of Northwestern Connecticut.
As executive director, DiCara has increased awareness and services for those in need in her area. She oversees FISH’s many programs, including a 35-bed shelter, a food pantry, health services and life-skills training. Last year, the organization provided beds for 84 individuals and fed more than 2,000 through its food pantry. Though the mission is to provide “food, shelter and hope,” DiCara believes hope is the most important.
“Sometimes it’s just a matter of reaching out and taking someone by the hand,” she says.
As an urban studies major at Wheaton, DiCara did a senior paper on the homeless in Boston. Through her many courses with Professor Jay Goodman, she learned to have high expectations for herself and others, she says. “He always had such high expectations for his students.”
In December, DiCara was named “Person of the Year” by her local newspaper, The Register Citizen, for her history of service in northwestern Connecticut. Before joining FISH, DiCara was executive director of the Girl Scouts of Northwestern Connecticut for 23 years. She also served as director of the Winsted Health Center and helped establish the Susan M.B. Perry Senior Housing complex in Winsted, Conn.
“Whatever activity I’m working on, whatever cause I’m focused on, just enriches my own personal life and brings me joy,” she says.
In June 2015, Litchfield Magazine named her among “The Most Influential People in Litchfield County 2015.” That same month, FISH received the “Quality of Life Award” from the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce.
However, the true reward for DiCara is the opportunity to help others. “I have found my life’s calling,” she says.