Fisher House II, opened in 2011, is located on 417 Schlatter Drive in Area A, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Karina Brady)

Mission comes full circle for compassionate care homes at Wright-Patt

The impact of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fisher Houses is widespread, reaching across the nation – even the world.

Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher, the creators of Fisher House, expressed a vision to give back to servicemen and servicewomen by building compassionate care homes. They wanted military families to be able to stay together during medical emergencies.

Because of the Fishers’ vision, Wright-Patterson AFB has two of these compassionate care homes, located near the Wright-Patterson Medical Center.

The two multi-family Fisher Houses, located on Schlatter Drive, have impacted the lives of families with medical priority from across the globe.

The guests who temporarily reside in these homes stay free of cost while their family members undergo surgery or treatment in the medical center.

They experience the comforts of home with a fully equipped kitchen, laundry room, dining area and several living spaces where families can gather. All rooms are handicap accessible and tailored to the needs of recovering guests.

“We are here as a support system,” said Karen Healea, Wright-Patterson AFB Fisher House manager. “We want guests to feel cared for and supported. We want them to be able to focus on their families and loved ones.”

The Wright-Patt Fisher Houses operate under Healea’s guidance, with the help of Assistant Manager Marilyn Vazquez, housekeepers and many volunteers.

The volunteers work the information desk, answer phone calls, shop for groceries, prepare gift bags and visit with the guests.

Lori Bellan, a regular volunteer at the Fisher House, processes linen deliveries for both houses and helps maintain a welcoming atmosphere by interacting with guests. Bellan has served the Wright-Patterson Fisher House for two-and-a-half years, one day a week.

“It does my heart good to know that this is available for military families,” said Bellan. “It’s nice when something is done for them so that some of what they’ve done can be repaid in a small way.”

One military family, Allan and Vicki Carleton, were guests of Fisher House II in 2017. Allan, a Navy veteran, was preparing to undergo a major surgery at the WPMC, and Vicki needed a place to stay during his procedure and recovery.

During a visit to the WPMC, the couple discovered the Fisher House and requested to stay in one of the houses on base.

Vicki moved into the Fisher House, and after Allan’s surgery, he joined his wife for the recovery process. During their stay, the couple were welcomed and treated as family.

“I thank God for leading us to Fisher House,” said Vicki. “The staff was spectacular, caring, helpful – a loving group of people. They just made us feel right at home. It was one of the best things that ever happened to us.”

“It made it a whole lot easier for us to deal with,” Allan added. “All the people here really understand what you’re going through, so they’re able to help you in any way that’s necessary.”

Now, the Carletons give back to the Fisher House through their ministry, Trey’s Dolls. Vicki and Allan spend hours cleaning, re-stuffing and dressing used dolls to give to children who stay at Fisher Houses all across the country.

Each carefully repurposed doll is fitted with accessories, two outfits and accompanied by a small doll and stuffed animal.

The Carletons named their ministry in memory of their son Trey, who passed away after battling cancer several years ago.

“Trey’s Dolls is one hurting soul helping another,” said Vicki. “My son would love that we are giving to a military-related entity like Fisher House.”

The WPAFB Fisher House has sent Trey’s Dolls to nearly every Air Force base Fisher House in the country and plans to expand their reach to other military branch installations.

Allan and Vicki’s story of compassion and service parallels with the mission of Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher. Their project gives hope to the children of military families in need.

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