The Orlando Fisher House celebrated its grand opening on Feb. 14 with more than 300 people in attendance. Special guests, such as the honorary chairman for Friends of Fisher House, Lou Holtz, and President of the Fisher House Foundation, David Coker, gave motivational speeches to the crowd. Lake Nona Middle School’s orchestra and jazz band also came and performed during the ceremony. The national anthem was sung by Julie Rattley who works at a VA herself as an OEF/OIF case manager in Gainesville.
The Orlando VA Medical Center officially has full ownership of the house and should have guests already settled in as of March. The Fisher House manager, Terri Turner, could not have been more pleased with the outcome. It was better than what she had expected. Feelings of accomplishment and joy overwhelmed her from before the ribbon cutting to finally allowing the public to walk through and see this essential amenity to the VA that she helped to create.
After spending over a year monitoring the building process of the house, she finally got to soak in the finished product. “It’s like when you plan for a wedding. You plan, you plan, and then bam, before you know it, it’s over with,” said Turner. She accepted this new chapter of welcoming guests and building connections with them. Turner has been impressed by all the support Fisher House Foundation has received from the community so far and she is anxious to see the continuation of support in the future.
Holtz mentioned that families of veterans have saved more than $370 million thanks to Fisher House since families stay at the houses free of cost. “Because enough people genuinely care, this has become a reality,” said Holtz.
This is the 76th Fisher House that has been completed. The two-story facility has 16 suites with private bathrooms, a kitchen area, dining, laundry, and living and family room. There also is a patio area in the backyard. As long as the family member of the veteran lives 50 miles or farther from their loved one receiving care at the VA, they are welcome to stay at the Fisher House. There is also no time limit as to how long the guest can stay. There are more houses under construction in Alaska, California, Connecticut, New York, Ohio, Maine and South Florida.
According to the Fisher House Foundation, they have aided more than 277,000 veteran families, and they are spreading their development to other parts of the world, such as Germany and the United Kingdom.