Housing Facility Offers Home-Away-From-Home for Military Families (KTVA.com Exclusive)
First residents describe comfort in the face of medical uncertainty
Newborns need a warm place to call home.
After their daughter was born nearly a month ago at a local hospital, Rachel and Josh Crawford said they often pull her rocker into the living room while they cook dinner, spending every minute they can with their new child.
They said baby Devi is already settling in.
“We see significant changes in her just since she’s been released,” said Josh Crawford, hunched forward in his chair in an upstairs room of the Anchorage VA hospital and fiddling with the zipper on his Carhartt jacket. “She feels more at home, too.”
Cocooned in a pink blanket in her car seat on the table, the baby cooed, eyes clinched shut, wispy hair already showing traces of red like her mother’s.
“It’s the way it’s supposed to be,” said Rachel Crawford.
After tying the knot in Michigan on Super Bowl Sunday of 2009, the young couple said they never could have imagined spending the first few weeks with their firstborn daughter in a house hundreds of miles from home at Eielson Air Force Base, where Josh is stationed as an airman with the 354th Communications Squadron.
A whirlwind few hours in early January changed everything.
Operated by the non-profit Fisher Foundation, the Fisher House at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is one of 54 worldwide offering free housing for military families while their loved ones receive medical treatment.
With 11 rooms reserved for families and service members living more than fifty miles away and a 12th reserved for families referred by the VA hospital, Fisher House Director Jeff Temple said the home has already welcomed several families since opening its doors December 22.
With two six-room wings situated around a common living area and kitchen, Temple said it’s designed after a “compassionate care” model where “everybody there kind of cares for each other.”
While Temple is currently the only employee, he said the House depends on five or six key volunteers who assist in checking families in, giving them a tour of the home and, most importantly, making them feel comfortable and at home.
“It really kind of takes that piece of worry away from them,” Temple said.
It did for the Crawfords.
“We found out there were going to be some complications Tuesday and flew down Wednesday,” Josh said.
After learning of a potentially life-threatening problem with his wife’s pregnancy, he said he had less than two hours to make the forty-five minute drive back to base from the hospital, pack a quick bag and drive back to the hospital in time to catch a red-eye flight to Anchorage.