Written By: Tom Gates
One of the great benefits of working on the JoycePayne Partners’ team is being encouraged, with the flexibility of time and resources, to serve in activities that benefit our communities. To that point, I have the honor of serving as the Vice Chairman of the Richmond Fisher House Foundation, a non-profit 501(c) 3 organization, whose mission is to provide financial resources and volunteer assistance in operating the Fisher House at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Hospital located in Richmond, Virginia.
The Richmond Fisher House opened on the campus of the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Hospital on July 21, 2008, at a cost of $5.8Million, all of which came from private resources. This beautiful facility provides lodging to the families of veterans receiving treatment at the McGuire VA hospital, at no cost. The House contains 21 family suites, including private bath, dining areas, recreation and entertainment. It is fully handicap-accessible. Its average occupancy level is 92-94%, and the average length of stay is 12-14 days, although guest stays have extended as long as one year. Since its opening, the Fisher House has accommodated more than two thousand families. Having family members nearby provides significant benefits and advantages to patient treatment, rehabilitation and recovery. By providing cost-free living quarters for patient families, the Fisher House provides an immeasurable benefit to patient care, in addition to the care and well-being of our veterans’ family members.
While the VA provides the day-to-day operating and maintenance expenses associated with keeping the Richmond Fisher House running smoothly, the Foundation provides resources for new capital projects, food, education, entertainment and transportation. Most of the families who stay at Fisher House live 50 to 3,500 miles from home so a homelike environment is important to spouses, relatives and children. Also, many of the wounded soldiers represent the lower enlisted ranks where personal resources would not be available to ensure a stress-free stay of appropriate length.
The Fisher House is a national organization that works toward establishing Fisher Houses at VA Campuses across the nation. The partnership between the Fisher House National Organization and the VA is a great example of the private and public partnership. To learn more visit the National Fisher House website here.
The Richmond Fisher House Foundation is working to build an endowment of funds to ensure that the Richmond Fisher House can meet its mission with the highest of standards. The outpouring of support from the community, individuals, corporations and family foundations has been incredible. Within the last 2 years we have been able to raise $1Million. Even more fantastic (and quite unusual in my experience), over 75% of that total came from individual donors. Presently we are evaluating the need for building a second Fisher House at a cost of $8Million.
Serving the Fisher House is a privilege of the highest order. Visiting the Fisher House is always somewhat of a gut check because you are confronted by hardships endured by our severely wounded warriors due to head and spinal injuries as well as at times multiple missing limbs. As a retired US Army officer and veteran myself I salute these men and women every day and say: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
Written By: Tom Gates