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Miami Proud: Fisher House Is A Haven For Families Of Veterans In The Hospital

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Caring for a loved one who is in the hospital can be stressful and draining. Coming from out of town, even more so. Terri Sheppard knows all about this.

Her father Thomas Walburg, a U.S. Army veteran, recently had surgery for an aortic aneurysm at the Miami VA Medical Center.

He and his daughter live in Daytona Beach, more than a four-hour drive away.

"My dad is 83 years old, still gets around pretty well, and has his wits about him. He likes to laugh and enjoy life," Sheppard said.

This is Sheppard's third time staying at the Fisher House.

Located right next door to the hospital, the beautiful accommodations include everything you need to feel at home at absolutely no cost. She said it's an enormous help.

"A motel or hotel is $150 to $200 a night, then add food on top of that. The gas coming down, gas going back, it would be tough it, it would tough coming down with extra money to come down here and make sure he's okay," she said.

For families of veterans who travel more than 50 miles – the Fisher House is home away from home.

There are 91 of these across the world at military and VA centers providing free lodging, meals, and comfort.

The Fisher House program is a unique private-public partnership that supports America's military and veterans in their time of need.

The Fisher House Foundation donates these "comfort homes."

The local community is asked to raise a portion of the cost of a Fisher House, and the Fisher House Foundation contributes the rest.

The Miami one opened in 2010 and has housed nearly 6000 families. Donations and community partners provide support in many ways.

Richie Sanchez is the Fisher House manager and an Army vet. He explained that they are supported in many ways.

"We have groups that volunteer to bring in meals, bring in comfort packages, a community group repainted some of our rooms," he said.

Over the years the house has received donations of Girl Scout cookies by the cases, meals served by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Miami Marlins too.

Currently, there are no volunteers inside due to COVID, but the guests' care from staff is top-notch. Sheryl Kern can attest to that. Her husband Daniel Kern, an Army vet, has overcome a series of ailments.

They live in Marathon in the Florida Keys.

"I stayed here for seven weeks when my husband was here in 2010,"  Kern said, adding that having everything they need right there equals peace of mind.

"There's a library, dining room, kitchen, laundry room," she added.

The guests are provided everything they need and are grateful that they can focus on their loved ones and getting them home.

"It's a great place to stay, they make you feel at home. If you need anything, all I have to do is ask," Sheppard said.

The staff considers it an honor to care for military families.

"Sometimes it's sad because you hear the stories but at least you're a shoulder when needed, and we serve those that have served," said Sanchez.

For more information on the Fisher House or if you would like to donate Click Here.


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