Diana Doyle, a former president of the Georgia Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary department, listens as Barbara Glover, department chairman for the Fisher House in August, explains how the house works during an Italian dinner fundraiser at VFW Post 5080 in Lake City Saturday. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
LAKE CITY — Mama Mia! The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5080 Ladies Auxiliary raised a lot of dough to help families of hospitalized veterans over the weekend.
The Lake City-based auxiliary held an Italian dinner fundraiser Saturday for the Fisher House at the Uptown Augusta Veterans Administration Hospital. When the night was over, 61 people — including former national VFW Commander-in-Chief John Hamilton — had come to the event and the haul raised for the facility totaled $1,150, said auxiliary officials.
That left post auxiliary President Cindy Lentz in a good mood at the end of the night.
“Oh we are very pleased, very pleased indeed,” said Lentz.
The money will go to help a facility designed to make families whose loved ones must be admitted to the VA Hospital comfortable. Barbara Glover, department chairman for the Uptown Augusta Fisher House, said families do not pay to stay at the facility, and there is no maximum amount of time they are allowed to stay there.
“Fisher House is a haven for veterans families who live more than 50 miles outside of Augusta,” said Glover. “It’s a 27-bedroom, 10-star hotel … They have to stay at least three nights and it sits on the property of the VA Hospital so they can walk to the hospital and be with their loved ones.”
Glover said the facility is one of dozens of nonprofit Fisher Houses operated across the United States.
It is also one of two such facilities operated in Augusta. The other Fisher House, which receives funding from the military, is at Fort Gordon and helps families of veterans taken to the Downtown Augusta VA Hospital.
Among the amenities in the Fisher House, Glover said, are twin beds, private baths, big-screen TVs and lockers that families can use to store their kitchen wares and nonperishable food items in the facility’s kitchen.
But operating a facility requires funding to pay for supplies, such as towels, cleaning supplies and toilet paper. Because the uptown Fisher House was started by members of the Augusta community, including ladies auxiliaries from that area, it must work harder to fund operations.
As a result, state auxiliary President Kim Lewis — who is also a member of the Post 5080 Auxiliary — has made support of the Fisher House her state project. That means auxiliaries across the state are working to raise money for the facility.
“It’s two-fold,” said Lewis. “It’s taking care of a veteran’s family because it allows them to be with their loved one when they are in the VA Hospital and I believe if you’re in a hospital, to have your family there with you helps in your recovery. That’s very important.”
Lewis and Lentz said they visited the Fisher House after she became state president last summer so could find out more about the facility. While they were there, they got to talk to families who had been there for months while relatives recuperated in the hospital.
“It was just amazing to sit there to talk to a lady who had been there 11 months,” said Lewis. “Her son had been injured and was in the spinal cord rehabilitation unit at Eisenhower Army Hospital in Augusta. They’re from Texas and she was so grateful to be able to be there, to have a family member with her son the whole time to help with his healing process.
“I was like, ‘OK, yeah, that’s wonderful,’” said Lewis.
Lewis said the money raised at the Italian dinner over the weekend will go into a growing pot that has already raised thousands of dollars for Fisher House.
“I think before this event, we had raised about $8,000 across the state,” said Lewis. “We haven’t added in our March totals yet, so our money will be going in there and bringing that total up some more.”
Anyone who would like to contribute money for the Fisher House through the Ladies Auxiliary can contact VFW Post 5080 at 678-571-6150 or email Lentz at firstname.lastname@example.org.