Opening in a pandemic: Ann Arbor Fisher House greets first guests

By: David Nye
July 14, 2020

The new Fisher House at Ann Arbor served about 100 guests in its first month to rave reviews, despite limits on hospital visitation due to coronavirus. The proactive work by the staff ensured that guests could safely stay close to the medical center where their loved ones received care.

Despite limitations on travel and hospital visitation enacted due to pandemic safety concerns, the Fisher House at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System opened on June 1 and quickly began hosting guests, greeting 114 in its first month of operation.

The formal dedication ceremony for the house was delayed, but April LaRock, Fisher House manager, said it was nice to be able to focus on opening the house and starting operations.

“We serve a lot of veterans that come from all over the state of Michigan as well as outside of Michigan. So even in this first month alone, we’ve served families from Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Colorado whose veterans come to Ann Arbor for the specialty care we provide,” April said.

“All of our housekeeping staff started working at the Fisher House the week before we opened and they did a great job helping our team get the house ready for our first guests,” she said.

While opening was a challenge, the staff at the Ann Arbor Fisher House quickly made an impact on its guests.

“Just speaking to some of the spouses that I’ve reached out to, or they’ve reached out to me, asking about lodging availability in the Fisher House, you can hear the relief in their voice,” April explained. “You know, it’s one less thing that they have to worry about, and they can be right there, on the campus of the medical center, close to their loved ones.”

Those positive reviews from families are making it to medical providers, and they are helping other potential guests know that Fisher House is an option.
“It’s been really great to get the response we’ve received from our medical providers in the hospital who are starting to refer guests and it is keeping us busy,” she said.

For the first month, the staff did the heavy lifting because volunteers have been restricted due to COVID-19 precautions. But April was quick to point out that the volunteers and partners made an impact anyway.

“We’ve already recruited regular, standing volunteers that we’re going to be working with on a weekly basis,” she said. “While their activities were limited, the volunteers have been making grocery runs to allow guests to focus on their family members.”

“Our Friends of Fisher House community group, Fisher House Michigan, has been absolutely phenomenal, super supportive, and just done an amazing job at getting us what we need,” she said.

April and her staff are still working to get more guests into the house, but their success so far has led to some families scheduling their medical care up to four months out, looking forward to staying again at the Fisher House. Fisher Houses are built to last for decades, so expect more great news out of Ann Arbor in the coming years.

Ann Arbor was not the only Fisher House to open into a local quarantine. Fisher Houses have also opened in Omaha, Nebraska, and will soon open in Richmond, Virginia; and New Orleans, Louisiana.