Fisher House is Offering a Home to Families of Wounded Warriors
By Lee Rennick
Almost three years ago the Fisher House Foundation opened Tennessee Fisher House on the campus of the Tennessee Valley Healthcare System Veterans Administration (TVHC/VA) property in Murfreesboro. A Fisher House serves the families of veterans or active duty military who are ill or have been hurt in action, much like how the better-known Ronald McDonald House serves families of ill children.
“These families [of servicemen and women] are making sacrifices and bearing burdens the average American can never understand,” says Ken Fisher, current Chairman and CEO of Fisher House Foundation, in the organization’s official magazine, The Patriot.
The Fisher House in Murfreesboro is the only Fisher House in Tennessee. It serves both the Tennessee Valley Healthcare Hospital in Nashville and the Alvin C. York Campus facilities.
While there were many people behind the project, Harriet Howard was one of the most powerful forces requesting that a Fisher House is built here.
“These families are making sacrifices and bearing burdens the average American can never understand.”
Howard passed away at age 89, just months before the November 2013 dedication of the new house, but her spirit continues to watch over the project. She was a retired WAVE, the women’s arm of the navy before they were allowed in the regular corps, and a powerful voice for the rights of veterans. She personally raised more than $125,000 of the $5.5 million cost to build the 12-unit home.
Each Fisher House provides a “home away from home” for the families of patients who are receiving medical care at TVHC/VA facilities. Each house has a spacious communal living room, dining room, laundry room, kitchen, family room and private bedrooms.
Inside the Tennessee Fisher House
The atmosphere is relaxing and it provides a retreat where families can rejuvenate after a stressful day at the hospital. The communal areas allow families experiencing similar issues with similar backgrounds the opportunity to interact and support each other. Many continuing friendships start within its walls.
“Families are placed on a consult list by a TVHS/VA social worker,” notes Rebecca Wood, Tennessee Fisher House Manager, “and then the House Manager places eligible families as soon as possible.”
Stays may be as short as two days or as long as six months according to Wood. Families are responsible for their own meals and daily expenses, but the organization can help with financial issues on an as-needed basis.
Fisher House: How it Started and How it Works Today
Tennessee Fisher House exists because of a unique partnership started by Zachary Fisher and his wife, Elizabeth, 25 years ago when they created the Fisher House Foundation. The international 501(c) 3 non-profit organization located in Rockville, Md., funds the building of these houses, then donates them to the Veterans Administration (VA) to manage and maintain.
“Zachary Fisher,” according to his nephew, Ken Fisher, “was a patriot and a visionary. He saw that there was a need to raise money outside of the VA system to build these homes.”
While the VA owns and maintains the facilities, the local arm of the Fisher House Foundation fundraises money for items the VA cannot supply or for which the timeline through the system would be too lengthy. The foundation supplies items such as new carpeting, a computer families can use on the weekend when offices are closed, food staples for the kitchen and other needs like paper towels and bottled water.
One of the fundraisers is a golf tournament named after the son of one of the board members, Jan Edens. Edens, with her husband, James, used the services of two Fisher Houses when staying near their son who was wounded in action. The “MoneyShot” Memorial Golf Tournament was created after their son, Jason, died from his injuries. He was a mortar specialist with keen accuracy, hence the name of the tournament.
If you want to make financial contributions to the Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, you can contact them at www.tennesseefisherhouse.org. A wish list and donation form are available on the website under the heading “Miscellaneous Information and Wish List.”