This Veteran’s Day the students of Cascade Middle School in Auburn, WA wanted to find a way to honor our military families. With the support of the staff they collected donations for the JBLM Fisher House. Collection boxes were put in classrooms and it quickly turned into a competition for the most donations. The items collected were delivered to the Fisher House to the delight of the staff and families. Thank you to Cascade Middle School and 7th Grade Science Teacher Casey Killett for your support!
Hannah and Kaitlyn Norwood, 10, stopped by the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fisher House on Friday to drop off their cash donation of $250. The girls, daughters of Lt. Col. Paul and Kim Norwood, raised the money at a lemonade stand this summer at their home on Fort Riley, Kan. Since there is not a Fisher House at Fort Riley, the girls waited until they moved to JBLM to donate the money. “Fisher House can never have too many friends out there taking care of us,” said Manager Jodi Land.
We are lucky enough to have some of the best volunteers! We wanted to acknowledge their hard work and dedication with this spotlight. Thank you volunteers! You make this Fisher House the best “home away from home” it can be!
Event Coordinator – Leah Miller: I became a volunteer at Fisher House to pay it forward. Fisher House provided a home away from home to me while my daughter was critically ill, until my husband and four other children were able to join us on compassionate reassignment orders from Louisiana to Texas. The Fisher House was a blessing beyond words, enabling me to keep my primary focus on the care of my fragile child.
Amy Harcourt – Volunteer Coordinator: Amy has been one of our most consistent volunteers. From running our volunteer program to being a Fisher House representative in the community we can count on her to support and advocate for the Fisher House. The entire Harcourt family has been volunteering at the Fisher House! Her husband, Jeremiah, created our beautiful garden in the back yard as well as speaking about the Fisher House at many community events. He was JBLM Soldier Volunteer of the Year for his hard work. The boys are also involved by helping with many events and spending a lot of time helping with the garden. The hard work of the entire family has improved our house and left it better because of their service.
Marketing/Public Relations Coordinator – Melanie Casey: Melanie is an award-winning Army journalist who volunteers as the Fisher House newsletter editor and public relations specialist. She attends Fisher House events and writes and submits stories and photographs to The Guardian newspaper as well as Fisher House parent organization publications. Melanie chose to volunteer with Fisher House shortly after PCSing to Fort Lewis in the summer of 2009. Unable to find permanent employment and wanting to put her skills to work, Melanie opted to volunteer at the Fisher House because she believes it is a worthy organization that people both in and out of the military need to learn more about.
General Volunteer: Herb Schmeling: Command Sergeant Major Retired Herb Schmeling is a thirty year veteran of the United States Army. While Herb volunteers for a myriad of organizations which supports service members and their families, the Fisher House program is both near and dear in his heart. During his final tour of duty at Fort Lewis, two of his soldiers were separately severely injured in training accidents and the families of those soldiers both experienced extended stays at the Fisher House while their son’s recovered. To Herb, the Fisher House program directly contributed to the recovery of both soldiers by allowing their families to be a part of the rehabilitation process. Since retirement in 2001, Herb has been an active volunteer for the Fisher House, soliciting support throughout Puget Sound during the Combined Federal Campaign, manning monthly tabletop displays at the JBLM Newcomer’s Briefing, and planning and organizing winter and summer “Christmas Parties” for the children of Fisher House residents.
Gardener – Rae Showman: Outlaw Showman is a 1-year-old rottweiler / labrador retriever mix. He chose to volunteer at the Fisher House this summer (as squirrel chaser, shade hoarder and cannon barker) because he feels everyone that stays on JBLM must be properly sniff-searched and licked-attacked. Outlaw can be found frequently by the back gazebo with his sidekick, Rachel Showman, the volunteer gardener. While Rachel does her best to maintain the Fisher House garden, Outlaw frequently has to eat the grass, bark and twigs himself to polish-off the landscaping. Rachel and Outlaw are two-thirds of an infantry family currently stationed at JBLM.
General Volunteers - Barb Baguhn & Chuck Mietzner: We have been volunteers for 2 years. We chose Fisher House because we are both from military families. Chuck is a veteran and we have many family members that have served or are serving currently. This is a wonderful association and we are proud to be part of it.
Massage Therapist – Marla Deere: I have family members who are retired and active military. it’s all about paying back the people who do what so many “Americans” can’t or won’t do..put themselves in harms’ way to protect us and the American way of life. I know how massage can help, emotionally as well as physically. whether I do 2 massages or 6, makes no difference to me. I’m THERE if the people of Fisher House need/want me — residents as well as staff.
Volunteers from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Fisher House took part in this year’s KidsFest, an annual event that celebrates the Month of the Military Child.
Held April 1 at the American Lake Community Center, the event featured bounce houses and inflatable slides, an area for mock sword fighting, equipment displays such as an Army ambulance, helicopter and Stryker vehicle, and a rock climbing wall.
Inside, vendors and local organizations distributed information ranging from fire safety to hand washing techniques and provided craft opportunities for both the young and young at heart. All of the displays tied in to this year’s theme of “Pirates Afloat.”
Hundreds of children came out to celebrate, and many stopped by to visit Fisher House volunteers Amy Harcourt, Leah Miller, Lymari Yenderrozos, Eladio Yenderrozos, Barb Baguhn, Chuck Mietzner, Tiffany Dodge, and Jessica Smith as they manned the Fisher House display. Dubbed “Sink the Ship,” the Fisher House exhibit featured inflatable pirate boats and bean bag cannon balls with prizes ranging from gold doubloons to tattoos.
Though the event was fun for the little ones, it also allowed provided an opportunity for volunteers to help spread the word about Fisher House and its mission.
Article and Pictures By: Melanie Casey
By Cassandra A. Fortin on March 31, 2010
A love of family, a critically-ill child, a life-threatening illness and a wounded friend brought four women together for a common cause.
Two paid employees, and two volunteers, these women help make up the heart and soul of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) Fisher House.
“The volunteers make the Fisher House a home away from home,” said Jodi Land, the business manager of JBLM Fisher House. “They give the house that personal touch that makes it more than a lodging facility.”
Opened in 1992, the JBLM Fisher House is one of 43 located throughout the nation. The concept to start the Fisher House was a dream of Pauline Trost, the wife of Admiral Carlisle Trost, the Chief of Naval Operations. She presented the idea to Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher and in 1991 the first home was dedicated in Washington D.C.
Typically the houses – which are gifts to the government – range between 5,000 and 16,000 square feet, and contain between 7 and 21 suites that can accommodate between 14 and 42 family members at a time. The JBLM Fisher House contains 7 suites, a living room, a dining room, kitchen, and a laundry room.
Like the JBLM Fisher house, the people who keep it up and running also have a story.
Land came to the Fisher House in 2001 after she applied for and was hired to be the business manager. Previously she worked as the volunteer program manager for the Army Family Team Building Program. While there, she discovered her affinity for working with families. Nine years later, she finds her job at the Fisher House fulfilling and uplifting. She is especially touched by the volunteers and what they do, she said.
“It is very humbling for me to watch the volunteers and see what they do here,” she said. “You see negative stuff and the greed of people on the news and then you come here, and you have no choice but to realize how generous people are.”
Also the wife of SFC Michael Land, an infantry stryker soldier who is deployed, she is getting a firsthand peek at what families go through when a soldier is injured, she said.
“I’ve never been faced with a medical crisis,” she said. “But I’ve been married to a soldier for 16 years. This has been a hard job for me. … We all get very emotionally attached to the families.”
Things really hit home for Land when a family friend was injured, she said.
“A couple days prior to my friend being injured, my husband was right next to him,” she said. “Knowing that makes it hard not to get emotionally involved with the families. We reach out to our guests. We’re listeners.”
Leah Miller learned what good listeners the volunteers and staff at the Fisher House can be, when she and her husband SSG Jason Miller stayed at the one in San Antonio when their daughter Riley, now 4, was critically ill when she was two-months-old, she said.
“The people at Fisher House helped ease our burden of worrying about a place to stay,” said Miller who started volunteering at Fisher House in January. “I wanted to volunteer here to give back for Riley. And besides that, what better place is there to volunteer?”
Miller who serves as the event coordinator for Fisher House, has already learned ways she can help ease the burdens of the people who stay there, she said.
“It is important when you see someone with a need, or a sick loved one to do what you can to ease their burdens,” she said. “It is not about what we cannot do, it’s about asking ourselves, ‘what would you do to put a smile on someone’s face’ and then doing it.”
Amy Harcourt discovered Fisher House after her husband SGT Jeremiah Harcourt – a mental health specialist – did a six month rotation at Fisher House. He was so happy working there, that Amy decided to give it a try. For almost a year she has worked as the volunteer coordinator, overseeing about 61 volunteers who work in the house and at events, and her husband volunteers with her, she said. Although it is rewarding, the hardest thing for her, is when wounded soldiers come through, she said.
“I try not to put my husband in their shoes … or say that could be my husband,” said Harcourt whose husband is deployed. “Working at Fisher House is like parenting your first child, because you learn from every experience.”
However, what touches Harcourt the most is the outpouring of community support, she said.
Recently, the Fisher House attended a mock dining in event hosted by the JBLM Officer’s Spouses Club during which the spouses of soldiers try to donate the most needed items, she said.
She was overwhelmed by the response, she said.
“I was at the Fisher house when the items were delivered,” she said. “I sat there and cried because they had done so much to help. Working here is awesome.”
Harcourt also has the perspective of a patient to bring to the job, she said. She was diagnosed with a cavernoma, a congenital, non-hereditary malformation of a vein situated in the brain or on the spinal cord, she said.
“I am a patient a lot,” she said. “I have frequent MRIs. I drag my feet when I walk, I bump into corners of walls, and I have horrible balance. I know what it is like to be the soldier’s wife, and what it is like to be a patient, so working here is therapeutic for me. This is the most rewarding job – paid or unpaid- that I have ever had.”
Nicole “Nikki” Wasierski started out as a volunteer and then took a paid position as the operations assistant a little over a year ago. With her husband – SSG David Wasierski, a sniper section leader for a stryker battalion – deployed to Afghanistan, she finds the life lessons that she has learned invaluable, she said.
“Anyone can get injured, or get a sick,” she said. “Knowing that the next person to get hurt could be my husband makes me more sympathetic. I came here because I wanted to serve my community. I wanted to do something that makes a difference. Being here, I know I’m helping the families of soldiers. I know what I do matters.”
Charitable contributions are an important source of funding for the JBLM Fisher House. To make a donation to the JBLM Fisher House, visit the Web site at www.fortlewisfisherhouse.org and click on the support heading. Instructions are provided to make contributions through the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) or direct donations through the mail, or online.