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Home Away From Home | By Kelly Twedell

When unexpected tragedy or illness strikes, the military community provides a sanctuary at The Fisher House for affected soldiers and their families. While the Warrior Transition Battalion is responsible for caring for its soldiers, they cannot accommodate family members or parents of the injured soldier. The Fort Bragg Fisher House was gifted over in 1993 from the Fisher House Foundation started by Zachary and Audrey Fisher. A large portrait of the Fishers hangs over the fireplace in the living room, as well as a copper bust sculpted in their likeness that graces the foyer to commemorate their generosity.

Across the country there are ten Fisher Houses in operation and one in Germany. At Fort Bragg, the Fisher House is located within walking distance of the Womack Army Medical Center. With most of the comforts of home, the Fisher House has individual smoke free rooms with full baths. Residents share a beautifully decorated common living room, fully stocked kitchen, oversized dining room, laundry area and a communal computer. These comfortable, temporary homes filled with warm, caring people help families endure the stresses associated with a loved one’s serious medical condition as they undergo care at the military hospital.

Local spouse groups, family readiness groups and church based organizations often stock the kitchen with staples and treats allowing those affected to spend more time at the hospital without the worry of preparing meals upon their late night return. On any given weekend, the two full sized refrigerators have prepared meals and homemade casseroles that are labeled and dropped off with love by volunteers. “Our family readiness group had a Bunco themed coffee in the Fisher House’s spacious dining room,” said Cindy O’Berry. “Each participant brought a covered dish or casserole to donate for the families staying at the house; it’s great to be able to help other families while they are away from home.” Any family member of an active duty or retired service member who is being treated at the military hospital is eligible to stay at the Fisher House. In some locations, outpatients may also stay in the Fisher House. The Fort Bragg location can house seven families and they are breaking ground in the spring for a larger scale house that can accommodate 11 to 12 families.

The new Fisher House will be one story and in closer proximity to the Warrior Transition Battalion. Since the start of the recent wars there has been an influx of service members who have sustained injuries and are not able to use the stairs. “There has been a real need for downstairs rooms and the single level home will be able to better meet the needs of injured soldiers,” said Shauna Crouch, Operation’s Assistant at the Fisher House. The Army provides no financial support for Army Fisher Houses. The funding for the operations and maintenance of Army Fisher Houses comes primarily from two sources: service charges ($10 per family per night) and charitable contributions. The Fayetteville and surrounding communities have always been avid supporters of the organization. In late February, there was a 12-hour bluegrass Marathon Jam to benefit the Fisher House. The event took place in Chapel Hill at the American Legion Post 6. Locally, HotRodz motorcycle shop on Sycamore Dairy Road hosts their bi-monthly Bike Night’s where all proceeds are donated back to the organization. In March they auctioned off a bike which, as you can imagine, was a wildly popular event in Fayetteville. Hats off to the new Home 2 Suites Hilton hotel chain for their community-based initiatives that entail donating funds and supplies, as well as providing their own staff to volunteer at fundraisers when needed. Other philanthropists who support the Fisher House are Denzel and Pauletta Washington.

In June 2005, the famous actor was recognized for donating the largest amount ever to the Fisher House, Inc. following his visit to the Brooke Army Medical Center where he toured a facility at Fort Sam Houston. They won’t disclose the amount of his gift, but Fisher House spokesman James Weiskopf said it’s one of the largest in the organization’s history and that Denzel Washington and his wife Pauletta have agreed to serve on the Fisher House board of trustees. Looking a contribution? You can donate to a specific house either through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) or send a check directly to the Fisher House of your choice. If you would like to volunteer, arrange for your organization to drop off meals or stock the pantry, contact Paula at 910.432.1486 to save your spot on their calendar.