Fort Lewis Fisher House more than just a place to stay
November 2, 2009
One of the major selling points for the Fort Lewis Fisher House is that any Armed Forces member receiving medical care at Madigan Army Medical Center can stay there, with Family, for free.
But that doesn't fully explain the true benefits that America's fighting sons and daughters, and supporting Families, can obtain from the Fisher House. Instead of just "a place to stay," the Fisher House opens its doors, resources and friendly volunteer staff to ensure that the "stay" is world-class.
This isn't just a house of Families looking for a free place to sleep and drop their stuff - possible lives are in the balance only a half-mile away at Madigan overlooking the Fisher House. U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Duncan and wife Amber, nervously await the recovery of their newborn boy Liam, who was receiving treatment at Madigan's neo-natal intensive care unit. The Duncans live in Bremerton, Wash., and can't afford to make the nearly 100-mile round trip every day to see their son, so they called on the Fisher House for assistance.
Or Army Sgt. Shawn Welch, shot in the leg while fighting in the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan, needed to find a way to get his parents, living in Florida, up to Washington before he underwent major surgery in Madigan's Surgery Clinic.
These are just a few of the issues Fort Lewis community members heard that are facing today's service members needing that extra help the Fisher House is well-suited to provide during the annual Founder's Day event Sept. 25.
The Fisher House opened its doors to showcase the house, volunteers and the Families utilizing its many resources. Stopping by for tours were Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis, deputy commanding general of I Corps and acting commanding general of Fort Lewis, and Col. Jerry Penner III, commander of Madigan Army Medical Center.
All who attended were able to see the meticulously-landscaped grounds surrounding the all-brick, non-profit-funded Fisher House, which has seven rooms and was built in 1992. The house features a common-area kitchen, laundry facility, spacious dining room and a living room, complete with a giant photo of founder Zachary Fisher and his wife Elizabeth prominently displayed above the mantle place. "We are continuing (Zachary Fisher's) vision, his dream, to provide 'a home away from home' for the Families in need," said Jodi Land, Fisher House manager. "This is the one time we open the doors to the community to let them see how the support they give benefits the Families." The Founder's Day event was sponsored by Live Nation.
More than 300 Families have received care at Madigan and stayed at the Fisher House this year. About 50 of those Families have spouses who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. This is important, because surgery recovery can take a long time, and the Fisher House allows all Families to stay as long as they need, because donations pay for the room fees, meaning the guests pay nothing. The average stay for a Family is 23 days. And Land said that just because there are only seven rooms available on Fort Lewis, the Fisher House Foundation, the national organization, will cover Families staying at various local lodging facilities off-post. Even air miles can be donated to fly service members' Family members from all over the world here. "We are part of the Combined Federal Campaign, and we want to give the community the information to continue to support the Families," Land said.
Brandi Welch, Shawn's wife, said that the Fisher House has been such a blessing to her. Her husband and brother deployed to Afghanistan in the same company, so it has been a rough summer and fall, she said. Even more interesting is Fisher House employee Nikki Wasierski's husband is also in the same unit. Then Brandi heard her husband had been shot, and turned to Nikki for aid. "Nikki arranged everything for us," Brandi said.
Wasierski received help from the Fisher House Foundation to acquire airline tickets through the Hero Miles program for Shawn's Family members to fly here, stay at the Fisher House, and be here for his surgery Sept. 11. His leg is recovering nicely and he is assisting his unit's Rear Detachment right now.
Connections like these don't come around very often, and Brandi said that she will conduct her own social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter to let others know about what the Fisher House can offer to military Families. "This place is awesome, and they are angels," Brandi said.
To volunteer or for more information, call the Fisher House at (253) 964-9283, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Web site at www.fisherhouse.org or www.armyfisherhouses.org.