Ralph H. Johnson VA Health Care System
continuing my service, my mission, my VA
An opportunity of a lifetime…that’s how I would describe my job as the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House Manager. After spending 20 years in the Air Force and moving to Charleston after retirement, I was hired to work at VA. I started in the Public Affairs office and then moved to Voluntary Service, before being selected as the first manager of Fisher House Charleston. It’s absolutely the best job I’ve ever had! After deploying twice to Afghanistan and a trip to Iraq, I knew that when I retired I still wanted to serve in some capacity, and working at Fisher House allows me to do just that. Now I get to serve the families of the men and women who have served our country. The family members may not have worn a uniform but they still sacrificed as they supported the Servicemember, and this is my opportunity to thank and support them.
Our Fisher House is located in historical downtown Charleston at 150 Wentworth Street. It is the first three-story Fisher House and is also the first to be built in a residential community. We have 16 suites to accommodate families and a common kitchen, dining room and living room area. Families stay at Fisher House at no cost for as long as the Veteran is hospitalized. They are referred to us through the Veteran’s social worker.
As we all know, hotels in Charleston are expensive, especially if you need to stay several days or even weeks. If you add to that, the cost of food and other necessities, it can easily become overwhelming and add significant pressure to an already difficult situation. The Fisher House staff and volunteers are here to help alleviate some of the stress. Whether it’s coordinating with a social worker, helping with luggage, giving directions, preparing meals or baking cookies, the Fisher House team is ready to serve. We also have many wonderful partners in the community who donate to us so that we can provide the “little extras” that truly make it feel like home. Through the generosity of our donors, we have luggage racks, irons, ironing boards, hampers, clothes hangers and many other amenities in each guest’s room, not to mention a fully stocked pantry and refrigerator.
We opened the doors for our first families nearly two month ago on Jan. 10. Since then, over 60 families have stayed at Fisher House, some for only a night or two, others for nearly seven weeks. It provides families, who are undergoing similar situations, with the opportunity to mourn, bond, cope, heal, and grow together. The families are overwhelmed to have such a wonderful place to stay and so grateful to the Fisher Family and our community for their generosity in making this possible. …because a family’s love is good medicine.