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Volunteers help make Fisher House near Madigan a home

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:24PM July 10th, 2014

Shannon Vernon and her nine-year-old daughter Sophia move like a well-oiled machine.

Every third Thursday of the month they bring four pounds of hamburger meat, eight ounces of shredded cheese, two cans of refried beans, lettuce, tomato, onions, sour cream and salsa to the Fisher House. The ingredients are prepared for the families staying at the home on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

“We do the same meal every time,” Shannon said. “There’s something about taco salad that everyone loves, and I’ve never had anybody refuse taco salad.”

The Fisher House sits down the street from Madigan Army Medical Center. It was created to house families of patients who are staying at the hospital. It can accommodate up to seven families and has a living room, laundry area, dining room and kitchen.

Vernon first volunteered to bring meals after hearing about the need while working with the Thurston County Women’s Republican Club. She said she wanted to find a way to give back to the military and found meal delivery to be an easy way to show she cared.

“And it’s fun,” Sophia added.

Sophia assists her mother with chopping vegetables and pouring sides into dishes for Thursday night dinner. Sometimes families invite them to join them and other times they prefer to eat alone. Either way, Shannon said she’s just glad she can help.

While regular volunteers like the Vernons are appreciated, there are many days when the kitchen sits empty.

Christina Openshaw, Fisher House assistant manager, said more volunteers are needed to ensure families staying there aren’t worrying about what they’ll be eating that day and can instead focus on supporting their loved ones.

“It is so much easier for them when they are going back and forth to the hospital,” Openshaw said. “And it helps us out.”

For the past three and a half years the Vernons have been regularly delivering meals once a month.

“I’m steady and solid,” she said. “I come rain or sleet, Christmas; whatever it is I’m here.”

Over the years Shannon said she’s learned a lot about military families and has even built relationships with a few.

“I was not in the military,” she said. “But I’m just impressed with how committed they are. They chose a vocation of serving us. This is a little thing Sophia and I can do for them.”

Meals can be prepared for either brunch or dinner. Volunteers aren’t required to dedicate themselves every week or month, but they are encouraged to participate more than once.

“As divided as the country can be the military is all encompassing; they serve everyone,” Shannon said. “I would encourage anyone to volunteer.”

To volunteer or for more information about The Fisher House, call 253-964-9283 or visit www.mealtrain.com/fisherhouse-jblm