JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
The Fisher House of Alaska hosted an opening ceremony for Fisher House II at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Sept. 10, 2018.
The estimated $6 million project features a two-story building with more than 14,000 square feet – 16 suites which include a private bedroom and bath, a shared family room, living room, and common kitchen, and laundry facilities for families.
“At the Fisher House, the families are what make it a home,” said Jenny Hall, Fisher House manager. “They’re all going through something unexpected, so quickly they become lifelong friends. The second house will only expand on that. It really is a gift.”
The addition of the second Fisher House provides more families with a peace of mind and lowers the amount of people on the waiting list.
Since the opening in 2012, the first 12-suite Fisher House had been at maximum capacity. To combat this dilemma, the installation commander provided a temporary annex location for an additional 15 families who were in need of free temporary lodging while their families received medical care.
The temporary lodging was an important step to ensure military and veterans could continue to receive the medical care needed.
“We have stories of people sleeping in their cars, or canceling their medical care because they either did not have a place to stay or [could not] afford their stay, so we had this very long waiting list,” Hall said. “The annex was just a temporary solution, but those 15 rooms were immediately filled and stayed above 90 percent occupancy rate - so it was a perfect match for us. Our new house has 16 rooms, and it’s exactly what Alaska needed and gives us a total of 28 rooms to accommodate Alaska families every night.”
Each Fisher House begins with a request from either the service branch or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Then the request is processed and fundraising begins for the house. After the building is fully funded, the Fisher House begins their work. The house comes fully furnished and prepared for the families. With everything from pictures on the walls and sheets on the beds to dishes in the cupboard.
The Fisher House focuses on ensuring that the transition from home to Fisher House is smooth, while removing some of the stress and financial burden families may worry about.
“In 2017 I was stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, with my wife and 12 children,” said Air Force Deputy Chaplain (Lt. Col.) James Anderson. “While there, I got tasked with a deployment to Afghanistan and it was during this deployment my 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.”
Soon after, Anderson came back on emergency leave, met his daughter and wife at the airport, and moved into the Fisher House. With the help of his older children, he was able to have his whole family together for the emotional months ahead.
“While in the midst of everything else and being far from home, the Fisher House gave us a community of support with long-lasting friendships,” said Anderson. “Fisher House staff and volunteers went out of their way to make us feel welcome. They really helped take the burden off and I’m grateful for everything they did.”
With 78 houses nationwide, the Fisher House Foundation has helped more than 300,000 families since the first one opened in 1990.