March 31, 2005
HOUSTON - This morning at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC), seven Gallery Furniture trucks lined the road behind the new Houston Fisher House delivering chairs, couches, tables, beds - everything needed to turn this empty house into a home.
Soon expensive hotels and cramped couches will be a faded memory for families of veterans being treated for long-term illnesses at the MEDVAMC. A Fisher House is “a home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers.
Currently, there are 32 Fisher Houses located on 17 military installations and six VA medical centers. The latest Fisher House is located on the grounds of the MEDVAMC. The Houston Fisher House will be largest one built to date, roomy enough to accommodate 21 families. Each bedroom suite has its own private bath. The house also has a communal kitchen, library/living room, dining room, family room, and laundry facilities.
Cost varies by location of the Fisher House. Average charge for lodging in 2002 was less than $10 per family per day; however, there is no cost for families staying at the new Houston Fisher House.
Fisher Houses are given to the U. S. Government as gifts. Military service secretaries and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs are responsible for the operation and maintenance of the homes. The Fisher House Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit organization under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, builds new houses, and assists in the coordination of private support and encourages public support for the homes.
In November 2003, the Department of Veterans Affairs accepted an offer from the Fisher House Foundation to build a 21-suite facility on the Houston VA campus. Taking the lead in the fundraising effort for the Houston Fisher House, Richard E. Wainerdi, Ph.D., president, chief operating officer, and chief executive officer of Texas Medical Center, accepted the challenge to raise the necessary funds, a sum that was matched by the Fisher Foundation for construction expenses. Former President George H. W. Bush served as honorary chair for the fund-raising effort.
Major foundations, corporations, veterans’ service organizations, individuals, federal and state lawmakers, and local businesses were quick to respond with support. Gallery Furniture, a local furniture store, donated all of the furnishings for the home.
The MEDVAMC will hold a Dedication Ceremony for the new Houston Fisher House on April 5, 2005 at 10 a.m. Participants include Wainerdi; Kenneth Fisher, Chairman, Fisher House Foundation; Michael E. DeBakey, M.D., Chancellor Emeritus, Baylor College of Medicine; the Honorable R. James “Jim” Nicholson, Secretary, Department of Veterans Affairs; and the Honorable George Bush, 41st President of the United States.