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'Fisher House Augusta' opens for families visiting injured soldiers

Fisher House

The Fisher House in Augusta offers military families a place to stay while their loved ones are in the hospital. (WRDW-TV / Sept. 7, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Military families from all over the nation visit loved ones at the Charlie Norwood V.A. Hospital. Now they'll have somewhere to stay for free. It's called the Fisher House, and many people in the CSRA helped fund the $5 million "home away from home."

Last year the Fisher House Foundation helped 12,000 families save 16 million dollars in lodging, food and transportation all over the country.

There is a seven-bedroom Fisher House on Fort Gordon which stays very full. With the completion of a new house, the military community in Augusta will continue to support families of injured military members. The new home hosted an open house Wednesday.

After more than three years of fundraising and construction, the Fisher House Augusta is finally finished and open to visitors.

"It's so important because it allows families from out of town who really couldn't afford to stay in a hotel long term, it allows them to stay here free of charge and be close to their loved one who is hospitalized," said Anne Arnold, manager of the new house located on VA property near the hospital off Wrightsboro Road.

The new home is fully decorated with brand new furniture, spacious kitchen and laundry quarters. It boasts 20 comfy bedroom suites, a family-style dining room, living room and an outdoor gazebo. Each of the rooms has a TV and DVD player.

"It means so much to me because my husband is still active duty," Arnold said.

She managed the Fisher House in Washington D.C. for two years but admits she's always had her eye on the Augusta house.

"I'm a military spouse, and I understand the bond that forms between the families when they're here," she said.

Arnold's not the only one who understands just how important family is for a soldier's recovery and rehab.

Brian Hammond, 26, retired from the Marine Corps after he was injured in Iraq.

"When I got back in the States, I was at Bethesda and my family was not able to be with me for the week or two I was there," he said. "So I know what it feels like to not have your support system."

Now Hammond is attending school at Aiken Tech and decided to volunteer at Fisher House Augusta.

"I just know how it feels to be lonely at the hospital," he said.

As a volunteer, Hammond will help families move in and get settled and sometimes help with house maintenance.

"There are 56 houses total across the country. We are number 56! That actually includes a Fisher House in Germany and in Hawaii," Arnold said. "Ours has 20 bedrooms so we are one of the largest ones. It's even nicer than a five star hotel."

It's somewhere military families hope they never have to check into but will become their "home away from home" if they do. Guests must live more than 50 miles away from the Charlie Norwood VMAC and require lodging for at least three days.

They are referred to the house through the VA Social Work Referral Consult Process. They may stay for up to 60 days in the home and are responsible for cleaning their own room and laundry.

The Fisher House Foundation 2010 Highlights:

  • Families served: Approximately 12,000
  • Average length of stay: 15 days
  • Average (combat casualties): 45-60 days
  • Average occupancy level: 87%
  • Saved families more than $16 million in lodging cost, plus food and transportation

You can call Anne Arnold at (706) 729-5773 if you want to help keep the Fisher House stocked. They continually need donations to stay open. They accept not only money but also linens, food, cleaning supplies and laundry detergent. She said they need everyday items to run a big house.

Donations can be made to:
Fisher House @ CNVAMC
c/o Augusta Warrior Project
1190 Interstate Parkway, Augusta, GA 30909

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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