Key to that mission is Fisher House Manager Sharon Hudson. Bubbling with energy, enthusiasm and empathy, Hudson was anxious to throw her doors open. “The dedication was fantastic,” she says. “There was such cooperation from the people here—everyone at the VA has been really excited about it. I’m glad that we’re open now and able to meet the needs of people coming through here.”
Indeed, within two weeks of the house’s opening, Hudson had already hosted 12 families, a few staying just two or three days, but several staying a week and longer. As more administrators and social workers at the VA and members of the community learn about the Fisher House, however, the house will fill quickly and a waiting list, as is common at other houses in the system, is expected.
The home serves, says VA Director Beiter, “as a home away from home for family members of veterans as they receive care at our medical center. It is a magnificent structure with 21 suites that can house up to 42 family members. It is spaciously designed and beautifully decorated.”
All Fisher Houses follow a similar plan, with an exterior designed in the style of the individual locale. Whether they have eight suites or 21, they exude a homelike environment rather than that of an institution or hotel. Hardwood or ceramic tile floors, cherry cabinets, granite counters—the houses feature first-class appointments along with welcome facilities such as a kitchen where guests can prepare their own meals and a laundry room where they can wash clothes.
Probably the feature guests most appreciate, however, is the common areas—comfortable living rooms and intimate dining rooms. This is where the magic of the Fisher Houses happens. “Just having a roof over their heads—that’s key,” says Manager Hudson, “but I believe the guests really appreciate one another—having each other to lean on. It’s like having an in-house support group; here, residents find other people with similar fears, challenges and experiences. It’s very comforting for families when there is someone here who understands what they are going through.”
Guest Cindy Barnett, whose husband Donn Erickson is being treated for a serious heart condition, will be spending several more weeks at the house. She echoes Hudson’s thoughts. “We can empathize, we have each other’s shoulders to cry on,” she says. “We’ve formed lasting relationships. When I leave, I’m going to keep in touch with [fellow guest Danita Jones]. And I don’t know what I’d do without Sharon. She’s a gift from God.”