Food volunteering opportunity: cook for military families at Fisher House / by Leslie Seaton

Fisher House kitchen, via FH website

Fisher House kitchen, via FH website

The Fisher House program is a national system of houses that provide a home away from home for families visiting wounded military personnel. Its motto is “Because a Family’s Love is Good Medicine.” (This is the program that President Obama donated $250,000 from his Nobel Peace Prize Aware to.)

From the national Fisher House site:

There is at least one Fisher House at every major military medical center to assist families in need and to ensure that they are provided with the comforts of home in a supportive environment. Annually, the Fisher House program serves more than 11,000 families, and have made available nearly three million days of lodging to family members since the program originated in 1990. By law, there is no charge for any family to stay at a Fisher House operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs; and Fisher House Foundation uses donations to reimburse the individual Fisher Houses operated by the Army, Navy, and Air Force. No family pays to stay at any Fisher House!

We have a Fisher House here in Seattle near the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. It opened in September of 2008, and has since served over 2900 families in its 21 guest suites.

If you love to cook and would like to help provide some comfort to these military families during a stressful time, consider volunteering to bake or cook for the house!  In 2010, when this post first appeared I spoke with Lorraine Thomas from the house, and she let me know some ways people could help.

One is to provide a meal for the families. A meal provided by the community is a welcome relief for the families who are dealing with the stress of having an injured or ill loved one and being far from home. The donated meals also help Fisher House stretch its budget further.

You can bring in prepared food to serve a family meal. Or, the house has a beautiful kitchen full of utensils and equipment, so a group could come in with ingredients and prepare a meal onsite. Lorraine said a buffet-style meal works best, and volunteers should expect to stay after to help clean up.

Because of the frequent turnover of the guests (sometimes 60 families pass through in a month), it’s not necessary to cook for any particular dietary restrictions, but she did note that no alcohol is allowed on site, so, as she noted, “no coq au vin” or other food prepared with it.

You and your group could come in for a one-time occasion or make a regular event of it.

I did this with my friend Maggi in December of 2010. Actually, Maggi and I were really just Twitter acquaintances before this day, and so volunteering together was a excellent way to turn a virtual pal into a real one. And it was a great night. I loved talking to the families, and they all seemed to appreciate the food so much. I have unfortunately lost my photos from that evening, but take my word for it: it is a great place to volunteer!

They can also accept baked goods, but Lorraine notes that for the safety of the families, they do not open the house to unsolicited visitors, so anyone interested in cooking for or donating to Fisher House should call first and arrange a meeting, even if they just want to drop off some cookies.

If you can’t cook or just would like to also donate to the house, they have a page on the site with the items they need and those that they cannot accept. Click here for more info.