Photos by Soren Sum.
Officials with the VA Long Beach Healthcare System celebrated the grand opening of the city’s first Fisher House Wednesday, a residence that will soon provide lodging for up to 16 families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel at no cost to participants, according to a release from the Fisher House Foundation.
The Long Beach Fisher House, joining 65 other Fisher Houses across the country, was created to bring families together with their loved ones during their hospitalization, the release stated.
“Fisher House provided us with a room to stay,” said Cliff Crabbe as he recounted the story of his son’s tragedy while deployed in Afghanistan, and how Fisher House has helped shaped their lives today. “We got to hang out with other people who experienced the same things we’ve gone through. We got to share our stories and help others with theirs. It was huge.”
“A place called home,” said Maureen Crabbe, Cliff’s wife. “It gave Justin [their son] and his buddies an opportunity to have a sense of normalcy and a sense of family. That’s the beauty of a Fisher House.”
The Fisher House is a 16-suite, 14,000-square-foot “comfort home” with bedroom suites equipped with handicapped-accessible bathrooms. Other rooms include a spacious kitchen, large communal living, dining and family rooms, a laundry room and patio. The house also includes a second floor that can be accessed via stairs or elevator.
Construction, which began last year, was supported by Delta Air Lines, FSHC Inc., American Legion Post 516, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, and other sponsors and organizations.
“This is one of the ways our nation can say thank you,” Steven Kuykendall, president of Fisher House Southern California Inc. (FHSC), told the audience as he gave his thanks to those who contributed to the Fisher House project . “Whether your gift was $2 or $200,000, it doesn’t make any difference because you’ve engaged in the process. That’s the biggest thing I’m most proud of from our effort.”
“Our engagement with Fisher House just doesn’t end with getting money for building facilities,” Dana Debel, managing director of state and local government affairs at Delta Air Lines, said to the audience. “Employees volunteer their time to come in and work with the families to provide a helping hand. All those things are [what these veterans] need when you’re going through a tough medical process. That’s how we engage and that’s what we want to do.”
“This is more than just a house,” said David Coker, Fisher House Foundation president, to the audience. “Fisher House provides resources for people who make decisions that are going to be better not only for them, but for their families as well.”