The Fisher House Foundation: A Home Away from Home
contributed by Liz Zaczek, Senior Staff Writer
As we quickly approach the Memorial Day weekend, the weekend where we remember and honor our country’s heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country and protecting our freedom, past and present.
Our nation’s fallen service members are given the Dignified Transfer bringing them to Dover Air Force base. The families of these fallen heros have the opportunity to be part of this solemn moment and witness the transfer. As it is the commitment of our military to bring these heros home and honor them as expediently as possible, often these families quickly pack and travel great distances to be there for these often early morning ceremonies not having time nor the energy to fully plan out the details of where to stay and eat once they’ve arrived…enter The Fisher House Foundation and specifically, the Fisher House for the Families of the Fallen.
Nearing its 10th anniversary of being a home away from home for these families the Fisher House allows these families to have one less thing to worry about during their stay. Just one of 87 Fisher Houses around the country and Europe, the foundation’s mission is to care for the families of our nation’s service members during times of medical crisis. The Fisher House for the Families of the Fallen is located within the Campus for Families of the Fallen at Dover Airforce Base. This House opens its doors to the grieving families giving them a warm, inviting and comfortable personable place to stay for free while at the base. The typical stay at this particular house is far shorter than many of the foundation’s other locations but that doesn’t mean it lacks a sense of warmth and community that is clearly present throughout the Fisher Houses. Even during solemn times, life’s more heartwarming moments still happen.
During an interview with TSgt Michelle Johnson, current manager of the Dover location, she shared the story of a family with young children staying at the house near Halloween. Despite the reason for being there, the mother wanted her two children to have some fun at the holiday. The staff, volunteers and the surrounding community pulled together to provide costumes and trick-or-treating fun for the children. Kenneth Fisher, Chairman and CEO of the Fisher Foundation, expressed that while the House at Dover is a place dedicated to comfort and compassion during such a solemn and hard time for these families that moments of reunion and in some cases, first meetings of grandchildren and nieces and nephews happen at this location in extremely life affirming and heartwarming ways.
I had the absolute privilege of speaking with Kenneth Fisher, Chairman and CEO, on all things Fisher House Foundation as part of this piece. He was more than excited to share and remind me that while we are in the midst of facing a challenging time as a nation and global community that the mission of the Fisher House Foundation remains the same and is just as strong and important as ever. Operating 87 Fisher Houses throughout the USA and Europe, 30 years strong, these houses warmly welcome the families of our nation’s service members and veterans facing medical crises. Strategically located close to military and veteran medical facilities, they open their doors to provide the families a warm, inviting and personal space to stay. They provide a sense of community and home rather than an impersonal hotel room. The stay and meals are free to these families while their loved one is receiving care.
Even during this time where the buzz words are “social distance” the Fisher House is still receiving families with open, albeit somewhat different, arms. The foundation has swiftly adapted to the current climate making sure both the families staying with them and their own staff and volunteers stay healthy and safe. While these “Homes Away from Home” feature communal areas and normally provide home cooked meals served around a dining room table, right now families are given gift cards for local restaurants but are encouraged to still be part of the community and family environment the Fisher House prides itself on providing. While families might not be able to physically be in the hospital with their loved ones, devices such as Facebook Portals have been installed in rooms both in the medical centers and at the Fisher House locations allowing families to keep in touch easily throughout their stay. Several locations have even gone so far as to welcome first responders and medical center employees to a place to stay while they are displaced from their own homes.
The Fisher House Foundation thrives with help from the local community and support from around the country. Easy ways to help the Fisher House Foundation and the families they serve include donation programs for air miles, Hero Miles, and hotel reward points, Hotels for Heros. Individual Fisher Houses are accepting gift card donations to restaurants in their areas to give to the visiting residents. For more ways to give visit: https://fisherhouse.org/ways-to-give/.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Ken to share any words of wisdom or reminders to our military, veterans and their families along with all our readers as we navigate our day to day.. As expected, his words don’t disappoint. ”It is unbelievable to think that there are men and women serving our country at risk not just from combat, but additionally, from this virus just as we all are. To them and to us all, stay strong, stay safe, make sure your family is safe, listen to what you are being told, don’t deviate, no matter what we are going through the people of the USA are very conscious of your sacrifice and we are still here today to support and honor you.”
To learn more about the absolutely amazing mission of The Fisher House Foundation and ways to help them thrive in their mission, visit their website at https://fisherhouse.org/.