History of Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, Inc.
The Tennessee Fisher House began when a group was formed on October 26, 2007, under the name “Middle Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, Inc.” to raise funds for the construction of a Fisher House on the Alvin C. York VA Campus. After an initial false start, the group disbanded in early 2010 leaving only one member in an active status, Mrs. Andrea Lawrence.
The new group which was formed officially registered with the Department of State as the Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, Inc. on June 11, 2010, under the leadership of Mrs. Andrea Lawrence as president. The Fisher House Foundation Inc. asks that a local fundraising group try to raise at least half of the estimated cost of the house. The monies donated to the original group provided a nucleus for the new group’s campaign. This new group hit the ground running with various fundraising events as well as visiting organizations all over the state of Tennessee recruiting contributions. One colorful member of the group was Ms. Harriet Howard who served as a WAVE during WWII. She was famous for taking a simple shoebox with here wherever went and not taking no for an answer when she asked for a donation. She raised over $100,000 to help and that shoebox is still on display at the house. Dan Whittle, a local news media reporter and author known across Tennessee, took up the cause and together with the Demos Family, created Whittle Mania. For several years the Demos’ sponsored the house by providing a donor with twice their donation in food credit at a Demos Restaurant. These major donors were but a part of the success of the fundraising. Area groups such as the Tennessee Daughters of the American Revolution, the Masons, VFW, American Legion, to motorcycle clubs to businesses added the Fisher House to their donations. Individuals recognized the benefit of the Fisher House and donated monthly.
The Fisher Foundation set its design teams to work with the local and Veterans’ Administration to design the house. Together they assured every detail was addressed to create an upscale facility to act as a ‘Home away from Home’ for Veterans and their families being treated by the VA facilities in Murfreesboro and Nashville.
On September 15, 2012, a formal Ground Breaking Ceremony was held with several hundred persons attending. Wild Bill Cody of WSM Radio was the Master of Ceremonies and Wounded Warrior Stephen Cochran sang his hit song entitled “Pieces” as a dedication to veterans who have returned home and contemplated suicide due to their feeling that their lives are shattered into pieces.
Upon completion of the house, a Dedication Ceremony was held on November 7, 2013, again with several hundred in attendance. Members of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Rolling Thunder and Gold Wing Riders Association began the ceremony by riding in with flags. The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Jennifer Johnson of WSMV TV. The pledge of Allegiance to the Flag was lead by the granddaughter of Alvin C. York. (Five members of the Alvin C. York Family attended the event.) Teddy Gentry from the group Alabama and his trio sang the National Anthem. A poem was read in honor of the Fisher House by the author, Margaret Britton Vaughn, Poet Laureate of the State of Tennessee; and Representative Scott Desjarlais brought greetings to everyone. Ms. Pamela Papay from Newman’s Own Foundation spoke of their foundation’s dedication to the Fisher House Foundation. Others who were present for the ribbon-cutting were President of Fisher House Foundation David Coker and Member of the Fisher House Board of Directors Mrs. Lynn Pace, spouse of General Peter Pace, USMC, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After the ceremonies concluded, those present were permitted to tour the house and participate in a grand opening reception.
Since the opening, the members of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, Inc. has chosen to stay in place to support the ongoing needs of the veterans, family members who are guests as well as continuing needs of the TN Fisher House.