Augusta's new Fisher House -- grassroots generosity at work in the CSRA

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The grand opening of the Fisher House adjacent to the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center will take place Wednesday, Oct. 5.

Dignitaries from the Veterans Administration, the Fisher Foundation and the CSRA will be in attendance. Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. Jim Livingston, retired from the U.S. Marine Corps, will be driving over from his home in Mount Pleasant, S.C., to participate in the ceremony. Those who made significant contributions to this project have received invitations to the ceremony.

THE FISHER HOUSE program was started by Zachary Fisher in 1990. Mr. Fisher, who had been very successful as a real-estate developer and builder, learned that many military families could not afford lodging near a hospital where their loved ones were undergoing long-term rehabilitation. Mr. Fisher sprang into action.

Today, in separate buildings adjacent to many military and veterans hospitals, Fisher Houses have been constructed to support the families of wounded warriors and veterans who are undergoing in-patient care at one of these facilities. The family members stay at no charge in these Fisher Houses.

Outside Fort Gordon’s Eisenhower Hospital is a Fisher House with seven suites for family members. The new facility is much larger – 20 well-appointed suites.

On this glorious occasion, it may be time to step back and marvel at the extraordinary generosity of citizens throughout our area when they perceive a need to help others.

The Kroc Center, the new soup
kitchen, Heritage Academy, Christ Community Health Services and the Fisher House are just a few projects that have gained attention and support.
In a time of economic distress, it is amazing that so many of our citizens have reached deep into their pockets to help build these badly needed facilities.

Of all the capital campaigns in the Augusta area in recent years, the Fisher House fund-raiser may have gained the greatest amount of support from the depth and breath of our community. Laurie Ott, along with Pete Caye, Boone Knox and a number of other Augustans, led the way in gaining widespread interest and funding support. Their motto was, “We’ve gotta get this done.”

A survey of those who contributed shows that schools, churches, veterans groups, civic clubs, garden clubs, book clubs, foundations and individuals dug deep into their pockets to support this worthy cause. Some Sunday school classes collected money each week. A number of schools throughout the CSRA followed the same pattern. Each check was small, but the checks sure added up.

HOW DO YOU find this house? As you drive toward town on Wrightsboro Road, you will pass Daniel Field. Drive another five blocks and look to your right. As you enter the grounds of the veterans hospital, the very first building you will see on your left is the Fisher House. You will notice how beautifully landscaped it is – picnic areas and a gazebo are out back. Hence, the house which is so well appointed on the inside, will provide a warm and welcoming environment from the moment a family first arrives.

Anne Arnold, the Fisher House manager, together with a whole host of volunteers, will ensure that each family is warmly welcomed. Although the hospital is only one block away, Anne will soon have a golf cart that can shuttle people with walking difficulties. Questions or concerns? Please contact Anne at (706) 729-5773. Incidentally, Anne’s husband is an active-duty Army officer serving at Eisenhower Hospital.

As we look for the future, the two Fisher Houses in our area can use some help.

Although the Fisher House at Fort Gordon gets strong support from the Combined Federal Campaign – and the new Fisher House will, by law, get operational support from the Veterans Administration – both houses conduct activities that do not get normal funding. For instance, Anne hopes to give families the chance to visit and tour sites such as the Augusta Museum of History, the Boyhood Home of Woodrow Wilson, the Morris Museum of Southern Art and the Arts and Heritage Center in North Augusta.

TO HELP, JUST make out a check to the Augusta Warrior Project and send it to The Augusta Warrior Project, 1190 Interstate Parkway, Augusta, GA 30909. On your check, please write “Fort Gordon Fisher House” or “VA Fisher House.”

If you have any questions, please call Jim Lorraine at (706) 434-1708. Jim has replaced Laurie Ott as the executive director of the Augusta Warrior Project, formerly know as the CSRA Wounded Warrior Care Project.

(The writer, a retired U.S. Air Force major general, is the secretary of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. He serves on the board of the Augusta Warrior Project. His email address is genpsmith@aol.com.)


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