Loved ones of military service members can find a home away from home at Fisher House Charleston while a family member recovers there from illness or injury. Fisher House Charleston provides a special place of tranquility and peace of mind for the military families staying in this historic South Carolina town, where food and lodging can be quite expensive.
“After spending long, difficult days at the hospital, I get in my car and drive toward the Fisher House and there is such a peace and a serenity that engulfs me,” said Joanne Vought, a proud veteran’s wife and four-time visitor of Fisher House Charleston. “I can feel the warmth from the provisions that I’m going home to. When you arrive at the Fisher House and open the door, you are not alone.”
The 16-suite Fisher House Charleston is one of 84 similar houses around the world supported by the Fisher House Foundation. The organization builds comfort homes where military and veterans' families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in a nearby military hospital or VA medical center, such as Charleston’s Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.
Typically, the houses are 5,000- to 16,800-square-foot designs with private bedrooms and baths. All spaces are professionally furnished and decorated in the tone and style of the local region. Families share a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a dining room and an inviting living room. Since 1990, Fisher Houses have served more than 368,000 families and provided more than 9 million days of lodging, equating to $451 million in out-of-pocket savings for families.
“We have some families who stay here one night and others who are here for several months, so it makes all the difference in the world that their needs are taken care of,” said Vicki Johnson, manager of Fisher House Charleston. “Lodging and meal costs in Charleston are very expensive. We don’t want them to have to worry about any of that. We want them to be able to focus on the care of their loved one.”
The generous, home-cooked meals guests come home to after spending the day at the hospital contribute to Fisher House’s welcoming atmosphere. Providing these meals is where a team of 25 BB&T associates knew they could make an impact as part of the company’s Lighthouse Project, which annually empowers associates to make a difference in their local communities with financial support and paid-time off for hands-on volunteering.
“We have a lot of team members who were either in the military or have family members in the military, so we have an appreciation for the sacrifices made by these families and the work the Fisher House does to take care of them,” said BB&T Market Leader and Lighthouse Project Coordinator Stephen Johnson.
The team used BB&T Lighthouse funds to purchase all the groceries needed to make several meals for immediate use and for storing in the Fisher House’s commercial freezers for future use. They spent two days preparing and cooking comfort foods like lasagna, broccoli cheddar pasta and large pots of chicken noodle soup.
“One of the ways you can show love is through food, so the teams put a lot of thought into the menus, did all the shopping, the chopping, everyone pitched in,” Stephen Johnson said. “The best part was we got to interact with the families who were staying there. That’s when it really hit home that what we were doing was making a real difference in someone’s day.”
The Fisher House’s mission was so moving to the BB&T associates that many have become regular volunteers. It’s the same dedication and passion for the mission that make all Fisher House Charleston volunteers and staff feel like a second family to every guest who walks through its doors.
“You can lay your head down and sleep most anywhere that has facilities for you, but there is something about the Fisher House that is like going home,” Vought said. “It’s not just a place to sleep, it’s a place where you’re getting support, you’re getting everything you need. It’s the warmest place, next to home, that I have ever been.”
To learn more about Fisher House Foundation, including a list of locations, please visit fisherhouse.org.