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New Fisher House debuts at VA Long Beach

Brig. Gen. Mark Baird, vice commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, seated with Lana Toenjes, VA Long Beach Fisher House manager, and Drew Hatcher of the Masco Corporation Foundation, listens to remarks by Fisher House Foundation president David Coker during the dedication ceremony Oct. 19 at the VA Long Beach Medical Center. General Baird attended the ribbon-cutting and housewarming of the sixth and newest Fisher House to open in California as a representative of the only active duty military installation within the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. (Courtesy photo/ VA Long Beach Healthcare System)

Brig. Gen. Mark Baird, vice commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California, seated with Lana Toenjes, VA Long Beach Fisher House manager, and Drew Hatcher of the Masco Corporation Foundation, listens to remarks by Fisher House Foundation president David Coker during the dedication ceremony Oct. 19 at the VA Long Beach Medical Center. General Baird attended the ribbon-cutting and housewarming of the sixth and newest Fisher House to open in California as a representative of the only active duty military installation within the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. (Courtesy photo/ VA Long Beach Healthcare System)

Tracye Davis, acting director of the Veterans Affairs Long Beach Healthcare System, holding scissors, and Fisher House Foundation president David Coker, left of Davis, with community supporters get ready to cut the ceremonial ribbon signifying the sixth and newest Fisher House to open in California during a dedication ceremony Oct. 19 at the VA Long Beach Medical Center. (Courtesy photo/ Fisher House Foundation)

Tracye Davis, acting director of the Veterans Affairs Long Beach Healthcare System, holding scissors, and Fisher House Foundation president David Coker, left of Davis, with community supporters get ready to cut the ceremonial ribbon signifying the sixth and newest Fisher House to open in California during a dedication ceremony Oct. 19 at the VA Long Beach Medical Center. (Courtesy photo/ Fisher House Foundation)

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Tracye Davis, acting director of the Veterans Affairs Long Beach Healthcare System was handed the keys to the sixth and newest Fisher House to open in California by Fisher House Foundation president David Coker during a dedication ceremony Oct. 19 at the VA Long Beach Medical Center.

This home will provide lodging for up to 16 families of eligible veterans and military at no cost, allowing them to be close to their loved one at the most stressful time – during the hospitalization for an injury, illness or disease.

The house received a well-attended ribbon-cutting and housewarming with well-wishers including Brig. Gen. Mark Baird, vice commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California.

Baird lauded the VA Long Beach Fisher House as a lighthouse for SMC military members and their families “in the dark night or stormy day of their medical need.”

The 16-suite, 14,000 sq.-ft. “home-away-from-home” was gifted to VA Long Beach Healthcare System as part of the ceremony. Each bedroom suite comes equipped with a private, handicapped-accessible bathroom, and common areas that include a kitchen, large communal living, dining and family rooms, laundry room and patio.

The Fisher House program is a 25-year-old unique private-public partnership that supports America’s military in a time of need. This program recognizes the special sacrifices of men and women in uniform and the hardships military service imposes on families.

“We are excited to open a Fisher House in Long Beach,” said Coker. “There are so many people in the Long Beach community that helped make this Fisher House a reality. Because of their tremendous efforts, we are able to support those we consider to be "our greatest national treasure, our military service men and women, and their loved ones.”

Coker described the VA Long Beach Fisher House as Fisher Foundation founders Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher’s dream of supporting the military and “helping those military families one family at a time.”

For members of the Armed Forces, retirees, veterans and their families, the Fisher House program offers shelter and support during a medical crisis. The need for a Fisher House in Long Beach is critical. Affordable temporary housing for family members is unattainable in the area and the duration of some hospitalizations at the VA Long Beach Medical Center can be lengthy.

Because members of the military and their families are stationed worldwide and must often travel great distances for specialized medical care, the Fisher House Foundation donates these “homes of comfort,” built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers.

There are currently 71 Fisher Houses located on 24 major military installations and an additional 29 on VA Medical Center campuses. These homes provide great assistance to families and ensure that the guests are provided with the comforts of home in a supportive environment.

The Fisher House program annually serves more than 25,000 families, and has made available over 5.8 million days of lodging to family members since the program originated in 1990. No family pays to stay at any Fisher House.

The Fisher House Foundation is recognized as being one of the top three military charities in the Nation with special recognition given to their less than five percent cost of administration.

The cost to build a Fisher House is about $6 million. Locally, the Fisher House Southern California, Inc., a nonprofit all volunteer collaborative effort of American Gold Star Mothers, the American Legion, Long Beach Rotary members and other groups raised half that amount, or $3 million over the course of nearly five years. Fund raising efforts include the annual Combined Federal Campaign, now underway, including at Los Angeles AFB. The generosity of the Fisher House Foundation matched that amount in order for the house to be paid for in full. Staffing, maintenance and upkeep expenses of the Fisher House will be the responsibility of the VA.

"Four years ago this house was a twinkle in our eyes,” said Steve Kuykendall, president of Fisher House Southern California, Inc. “After thousands of volunteer hours and donations across the spectrum of givers and geography we are smiling as we watch the VA Long Beach Fisher House begin a long career serving veterans and their families."

Kuykendall asked those present to get involved with the Fisher House’s mission, “so that you can see the dignity and majesty of our armed forces.”

Coker finished by stating the foundation will be breaking ground for its next Fisher House in a few weeks. There are 20 other locations near VA or military medical facilities where the foundation has identified the need for a Fisher House.

“Our work is not done,” Coker said of the continued need. “We are not even close.”

The VA Long Beach Fisher House will not only create an instant community for its residents, united by their common mission of supporting a sick or injured loved one, but it will also provide each individual with a secure and private refuge after a long day at the hospital to rest and recharge.

“Our ability to provide a safe, comfortable, and supportive environment for the families of our Veteran patients ensures holistic care and promotes healing,” said Davis. “We are grateful to the Fisher House Foundation, our board, and our neighbors for making this possible and for supporting our shared Veterans.”

About Fisher House

Fisher House Foundation is best known for a network of comfort homes where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while a loved one is receiving treatment. These homes are located at major military and VA medical centers nationwide, and in Europe, close to the medical center or hospital it serves. Fisher Houses have up to 21 suites, with private bedrooms and baths. Families share a common kitchen, laundry facilities, a dining room and living room. Fisher House Foundation ensures that there is never a lodging fee. Since inception, the program has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $320 million in out of pocket costs for lodging and transportation.

Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles Program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members as well as the Hotels for Heroes program using donated hotel points to allow family members to stay at hotels near medical centers without charge. The Foundation also manages a grant program that supports other military charities and scholarship funds for military children, spouses and children of fallen and disabled veterans. For more information, visit http://www.fisherhouse.org

About the VA Long Beach Healthcare System

VA Long Beach Healthcare System provides care to over 56,000 Veterans living in Long Beach and Orange County communities. With five local community clinics in addition to the main campus, VA Long Beach hosted just under 780,000 out-patient visits through September of 2016 and has a staff of approximately 2,800. In addition to traditional ambulatory care services, VA Long Beach hosts one of the largest Spinal Cord Injury Centers within VA, a one of the Newest Blind Rehabilitation Center as well.