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Volunteer of the Month

Volunteer’s work impacts families at Fisher House

Published: 10:12AM March 27th, 2014

Being a volunteer and helping others comes naturally to Dee Deruelle. Before she came to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, she was a Drug Abuse Resistance Education representative who spoke to students in classrooms about the dangers of drug abuse, and helped fundraising drives in support of breast cancer and multiple sclerosis organizations.

Her desire to serve the community stayed with Deruelle as she and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Deruelle, received permanent-change-of-station orders from Tennessee to JBLM in December 2011.

Her work at the JBLM Fisher House since June 2013 is why Deruelle was named the JBLM Volunteer of the Month for March 2014.

Nobody seemed to be available to restock the kitchen, organize incoming donations and perform other housekeeping tasks for months prior to Derulle’s arrival, Fisher House manager Jodi Land said.

“She does all of the stuff that nobody thinks of that impacts families,” Land said.

Helping people is Deruelle’s favorite part of volunteering at the Fisher House. The sum of her wide range of small tasks has truly made an impact on people’s lives.

She has done it all, from stacking the dishes in the cabinets to preparing meals for the seven families who call the Fisher House home while loved ones receive care at Madigan Army Medical Center.

JBLM is one of 62 locations where service members, veterans and their families can stay at no cost. It has seven guest rooms, a kitchen, dining area, laundry area, outdoor pavilion and provides towels, linens and groceries.

“Quite frequently, they have a lot on their mind and the last thing that they’re thinking about is whether they went and bought food for the refrigerator,” Deruelle said.

Volunteering at Fisher House is different from anything Deruelle has done, she said, because she gets direct feedback from the people she volunteers to help. She sees the appreciation in their faces.

It has also taught her about what it means to be part of the JBLM community.

She calls interacting with military families dealing with the stress of their loved ones receiving treatment for serious medical conditions “a learning experience.”

“They tell me often ‘Thank you for what you do.’ But I thank them because I (learn) from them.”

In addition to volunteering at Fisher House, Deruelle is pursuing a master’s degree in human services online through Walden University, with concentration on intervention and family services.

Her goal is to continue helping families.

Land said she knows a day will come where Deruelle will have to leave the Fisher House to pursue her goals of family service, despite how much they would prefer her to stay.

“I love her and she can never leave,” Land joked.