The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House reached an exciting milestone on July 1, 2021 by serving its 2,500th Veteran family.
Located in downtown Charleston on the corner of Wentworth and Smith Street, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House offers a “home away from home” for Veterans and their loved ones as they receive medical care in Charleston.
Unique Fisher house in Charleston historic district
Veterans and their families stay at the Fisher House free for the duration of their time at the house.
“The Fisher House has provided great peace of mind and far less to worry about during these tough times,” said Kat Perdue, a guest at Charleston Fisher House and mother of a service member currently receiving treatments at Charleston VAMC. “This place is a safe haven to come and feel at ease, both physically and emotionally.”
Atmosphere of comfort and support
While almost every Fisher House has the same design and layout, The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Fisher House is different. Its three stories and 15,000 square feet has 16 rooms for guests, a full kitchen, laundry room, library, multiple common areas, and a patio and garden behind the house.
The design of the house and the quality of the furnishing make the home comparable to a luxurious bed and breakfast in the heart of Charleston’s historic district.
“What makes The Charleston Fisher House so different is the sense of community that is built between our Veterans, their families, and our staff,” said Jacalyn Slemmer, the Charleston Fisher House manager. “We are at the highest occupancy since the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place. It’s wonderful to see the interaction between caregivers, Veterans and volunteers. We share stories, interact and provide support to each other. This has created an atmosphere of comfort and support for our guests during difficult times.”
Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher dedicated more than $20 million to the construction of comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel to stay free of charge in support of their loved ones when they need it most.
Hope, home, hospitality
Two guests that have stayed at The Charleston Fisher House since its opening are Jimmy Vaught, an Army Veteran receiving medical care at the Johnson VA, and his wife of 51 years, JoAnn (pictured above).
The Vaughts have been coming to Charleston for Jimmy’s infusion treatments for two years. They’ve been able to stay at Charleston Fisher House free of charge for two to three days a month during those two years.
“Prior to being introduced to The Fisher House, I would spend many long days and many long nights with my husband at the hospital,” JoAnn said. “Then I’d go to a motel across the street, which brought on a lot of loneliness. Everything changed when we were introduced to the Fisher House. From the first time we entered the doors, the staff was there to greet you. They make you feel very much at home.”
JoAnn says that, when she first walked into the Fisher House, she knew she would no longer going through this alone.
- Guests must have a military affiliation (active duty, retired, Reserve, National Guard, Veteran). They also must be actively receiving medical care at one of the nearby medical facilities. Their family members are eligible to stay with the patient regardless of their military status.
- Guests must have a permanent, verifiable residence more than 40 miles from the Fisher House.
- Patients are eligible to stay at the Fisher House alone if they are fully able to care for themselves. Children are not to be left unattended while the patient is receiving medical care.
- Patients are eligible to stay at the Fisher House regardless of medical condition, if the condition does not require Home Health services. No medical personnel can enter the Fisher House to provide care on an outpatient basis.
- Fisher Houses do not allow pets; the sole exception is Certified Service Dogs.
More information about the Fisher House program can be found here. Information can be found specifically about the Charleston Fisher House here.
Will Brugge is a public affairs specialist with the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.