JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Cindy Wilsbach, spouse of the Pacific Air Forces commander, visited Fisher House II with PACAF and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson senior leaders’ spouses at JBER, Alaska, Feb. 16, 2021.
Fisher Houses provide free accommodation for families of patients receiving care at major military and Veterans Affairs medical centers.
Wilsbach volunteered with and helped support Alaska Fisher House from 2016 to 2018; this was her first time visiting Fisher House II since construction was completed.
Built next to Fisher House I, the new building opened in September 2018 and features 16 suites with private bedrooms and baths, and includes a common kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry facilities.
“[Wilsbach] got there in August of 2016 and ... by September she was connected with Fisher House,” said Jenny Hall, a Fisher House manager since 2013. “She immediately jumped right in and got involved.”
Wilsbach joined the board for the Friends of the Alaska Fisher House, a community fundraising group that helps meet families’ needs when they are staying at Fisher House. One of these unmet needs was transportation.
“For example, we might have an Airman from Eielson [Air Force Base, Alaska], who is 19 years old and too young to rent a car but haså a baby in the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit] at Providence [Alaska Medical Center],” Hall said. “How do we get them from the Fisher House to the NICU every day? Cindy and the Friends of the Fisher House board were able to supply us with a vehicle around the time the second Fisher House was opening, so they also built a garage for the vehicle.
“She was instrumental as we were going through the planning stages of Fisher House II in terms of ‘Can the house fit here?’ and how big of a house we would need,” said Hall, now a Fisher House manager at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
“Not only was she on the board, she also volunteered with desserts for our families tsaid. “She is an amazing baker and weekly she would bake things for the Fisher House and bring them for our families — you’d think a professional baker made them.”
True to her nature, Wilsbach brought baked goods for the families and staff at Fisher House when she arrived for her visit Tuesday.
“We strive for it to be a home away from home, to provide families a safe place to be able to focus solely on their medical needs or their health,” said Theresa Nedrow, Alaska Fisher House interim manager. “The bonds made here are remarkable. There are oftentimes many guests here for a long period of time and when they come back for an appointment, they’re still connecting with the individual who was there when they were vulnerable.”
“The mission of the Fisher House is lodging, but through our community support we are able to offer food, transportation, and amenities such as a heating pad or a wedge pillow,” Hall said. “Whatever the families need, the Friends of the Fisher House support, and that’s where [Wilsbach] came in to help with those unmet needs.”
With 91 houses nationwide, the Fisher House Foundation has helped more than 500,000 families since the first one opened in 1990.