AIR FORCE DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON -- Painted across the side of the staircase in the Fisher House on Andrews Air Force Base, Md., are the words "kind, thoughtful, warm, peaceful, friendly and caring." These words exemplify the attitude of everyone at the Fisher House, where guests are treated like family.
Fisher Houses are homes where the families or friends of sick or injured military members receiving medical attention may stay as their "Home Away From Home." Mr. Zachary Fisher and his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Fisher, funded and built the first Fisher House in Bethesda, Md., in 1991 for the families of servicemembers hospitalized at the
National Naval Medical Center.
Since 1990, the Fishers funded and built 54 homes across the United States and in Germany on major military bases and near Veterans Affairs medical clinics. Plans to have two more houses built by the end of 2011, totaling 56 homes. The Fisher House on Andrews was built in 1994, near Malcolm Grow Medical Center. The Fisher House Foundation, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization and no family pays to stay at any Fisher House.
On July 28, Mrs. Audrey Fisher, vice chairman and "ambassador" of the Fisher House Foundation and wife of the previous President and CEO, Mr. Arnold Fisher, visited Andrews Fisher House for a meet and greet with the families and distinguished visitors.
Before she and her company arrived, the house bustled with activity as Fisher House volunteers and family members prepared for Fisher's arrival. The home is two-stories, with an expansive kitchen, a comfortable common den, and a gorgeous dining area. There are two suites at opposite ends of the main floor, and five bedrooms on the second level. Volunteers keep the home immaculately clean so that the families do not have to worry about anything except taking care of their loved ones.
Mrs. Nancy Christian, a volunteer at the Fisher House, showed the home as others arranged snacks and lemonade in the kitchen. The suites have two queen sized beds, their own handicap accessible bathrooms, and small sitting rooms.
"It's amazing to see these families smiling all the time," Christian said. "You realize that if they can smile even though they're experiencing hard times, you are so fortunate and should be skipping."
Christian never stopped smiling as she showed visitors the rest of the house. The dining room has sleek hardwood floors and square dining tables. She said that to keep the home as clean as possible, food is not allowed in the bedrooms or suites, not only for purposes of cleanliness, but also to encourage socialization. "Everyone loves to hang out and talk in the kitchen and dining room," she said.
One would not know Fisher Houses are homes for the families of ill and injured servicemembers, as everyone is so jovial and friendly. Master Sgt. Christopher Sweet, from the Andrews Airmen and Family Readiness Center, and his family arrived shortly after Christian's tour. Sergeant Sweet and his children stayed at the Andrews Fisher House while his wife, Tech Sgt. Jessica Sweet, received treatment for leukemia. She passed away in February of 2009. Through a survivor support group, Sergeant Sweet met Danielle Balmer, whose husband, Tech. Sgt. Ryan Balmer, was killed in Iraq. Sweet and Balmer married this past July 4 at the base of the Air Force Memorial in Washington D.C.
The Sweets were cheerful as they met with Mrs. Janet L. Grampp, manager of the Fisher House, Mrs. Caron, wife of 79th Medical Wing Commander Maj. Gen. Caron, and 11th Wing Commander Col. Kenneth Rizer and his wife Mrs. Cheri Rizer.
At half-past-two, Mrs. Fisher and her company arrived. With her were: Mr. James D. Weiskopf, Vice President of Fisher House Foundation, Inc.; Mrs. Nancy Edelman, Mrs. Fisher's right hand associate; Mrs. Suzie Schwartz, wife of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force; Mrs. Cynthia Breedlove, wife of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force; and Mrs. Mary Jo Myers, wife of the past Joint Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
Grampp gathered everyone in the den where Mr. David Bullock, co-founder of White Oak Physical Therapy and Pain Management Center, in Silver Spring, Md., presented the Fisher House Foundation with a check for $2,317.25. The money was collected through a community campaign called "Cookies for the Cavalry." The campaign, which asked for cookie donations as well as 25 cents for each cookie, collected baked goods for Walter Reed Military Hospital, Malcolm Grow Medical Center, and the National Naval Medical Center, donating the money collected to the Fisher House Foundation.
For more information about Fisher House Foundation, Inc., visit www.fisherhouse.org.