EGLIN AFB – A refuge for families of injured and sick service members is just a year away from opening.
Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast marked the success of two years of planning and fund raising.
“We’re going to be back next December to give a Christmas present to Eglin,” said Tom Rice, a Fisher House board member.
Fisher House homes offer free temporary room and board to families of servicemen and women receiving medical care. Eglin’s 10,000-square-foot facility will have 12 suites and be built across the road from Eglin Regional Hospital.
“It’s a bed and breakfast and operates 24-7,” Rice said.
“They call it a house, but we all know it is much more than that. It’s a home,” said U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, who attended the groundbreaking. “I look forward to coming back as we open the doors.”
Since 2003, more than 30,000 U.S. soldiers have been wounded, said Maj. Gen. David Eidsaune, commander of Eglin’s Air Armament Center.
“Doctors will tell you, it’s just as important as medicine and surgery in recovery,” he said of family support. “I take great comfort in knowing that our brave wounded have the family they need to nurse them back to health.”
“This got started because of caring,” said Trecia Chedister, a founding member and former vice president of the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast. “Fisher House at Eglin is a reality because of you, the community. Thank you for caring for these families. The Fisher House will pay it forward for many, many years.”
Contributors included Army Rangers who collected more than $4,000 and Valparaiso Baptist Church, which raised $1,000.
Picture: Trecia Chedister, former Vice president Fisher House of the Emerald Coast Board, addresses the audience.
Rice said fund raising for the Fisher House was as simple as informing the public and answering the phone to say “thank you.”
He talked of the “civic rent” that each person involved in this project has paid. “Each one has paid civic rent and continues to do so,” said Rice.
The term comes from an Alabama mayor. “He said we’re all obliged to pay our civic rent. Some pay a little, some pay a lot, some pay with all they have,” Rice added.
To date, the Fisher House Foundation’s 42 houses have helped more than 500,000 families, said foundation president David Coker. “As impressive as that is, it’s not enough,” he said.
The Fisher House Foundation operates on congressionally appropriated funds in areas with demonstrated community participation. The homes are supported through a congressional trust fund and community donations. Once the local board showed community support, the funds were matched.
“I love the fact that the military and the public care enough about the military to support the Fisher House,” said Jane Eidsaune, wife of Gen. Eidsaune and an honorary board member.
Fisher House of the Emerald Coast will continue fund raising to support the cost of running the new house and for construction of future houses.
“In some ways, the Fisher House groundbreaking feels just like a finish line,” said Tony Hughes, president of the board for Fisher House of the Emerald Coast. “It’s not. It’s a start.”
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