Seeking to help wounded veterans and their families in Middle Tennessee, the Fisher House Foundation will break ground next month on a new home in Murfreesboro.
“The family serves right along with the soldier,” said Andrea Lawrence, coordinator of the Tennessee Fisher House project on the grounds of the VA Hospital in Murfreesboro.
Lawrence said it is hoped the $4.5 million project will be completed next year. She revealed in her address to the Noon Exchange Club that such houses exist across the country, the brain child of wealthy industrialist Zachary Fisher, who built 20 of the homes out of his own pocket.
“After you build that many out of your own checkbook, money will run out after a while so that’s when it was made into a public mission,” Lawrence said, noting money is privately raised to build the houses now. “There are also Hero Miles where travelers donate their frequent flier miles so the families of injured soldiers can fly back and forth to be with them, and Hotels for Heroes where frequent lodgers donate their earned hotel time to the families of injured soldiers.”
In the case of Fisher House, the dwellings are meant to serve the soldiers and their families as long as they are needed, in some cases families staying for up to two years.
“It’s not a motel, it’s a home,” Lawrence said, noting the presence and support of family aids in the recovery process. “It is a proven fact that family support is an important part of the healing process. We want those family members there.”
Fisher houses are built near military healthcare facilities. In this case it is on the campus of the VA Hospital, plus the house will have regular shuttles to Nashville-area hospitals.
“Injuries to our soldiers don’t recognize rank, race or finances,” Lawrence said, pointing out the cost of lodging and food would break most military families quickly.
“There are few families that can afford long-term lodging,” Lawrence said.
Fisher houses have saved military families $192 million since the first one opened in 1990, according to Lawrence. “We have families sleeping in their cars and eating what snacks they can find in hospital waiting rooms.”
As for what the public can do, Lawrence said there are several ways to help. First is by monetary donations, which can be sent to Tennessee Fisher House Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 774, Brentwood, TN 37024. Those wanting to help can also help with donations of food or even by preparing meals for the families. Those interested in finding out how can go to the website at TennesseeFisherHouse@comcast.net, or www.TennesseeFisherHouse.org.