EGLIN AFB — The sun blazed Friday morning on more than 300 people who celebrated the opening of the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast.
The long-awaited 13,000-square-foot building boasts 12 suites to provide temporary room and board to families of service members hospitalized at Eglin Air Force Base's hospital. It is the 48th Fisher House to open in the United States.
"I laid in bed last night and tried to think about what Fisher House means," said Trecia Chedister, who with another woman raised the idea of building a Fisher House at Eglin. "It is the gift of healing, love and kindness that will give back to future families going through challenging times."
Chedister was one of many people at the ceremony who had a hand in the opening of Fisher House.
"It's all about the families," Chedister said after the ribbon-cutting. "It's a wonderful gift we are giving to future families. No one knows how much this really means to them."
Retired Brig. Gen. Joe Oder, president of Fisher House's the board of directors, smiled at the crowd from a podium set up in front of the large house.
"It's happening," Odor said. "This is a wonderful dream come true."
Efforts to build the Fisher House began in 2005. By 2008, Oder said he was helping raise funds for construction. He said all that remains is to pay to keep the house maintained.
"It's been a long journey," he said. "Thanks to a caring community, it's finally here."
Congressman Jeff Miller, David Coker, president of the board of the Fisher House Foundation, and retired Air Force Col. Bud Day were among those on hand to mark the occasion.
Maj. Gen. C.R. Davis, commander of Eglin's Air Armament Center, said Fisher House will offer a needed service.
"While we would love for this house to stay vacant, we know that it won't," Davis said. "But for those that are hurting and have to go through these doors, we're glad we can provide them with some relief."
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski