ORLANDO, Fla. – Teresa “Terri” Turner is known for getting results for veterans and their families in times of crisis.
For her, the Orlando Fisher House at the Orlando VA Medical Center Lake Nona campus has been a labor of love.
“We are a facility that provides cost free lodging to loved ones of hospitalized veterans, and also to veterans and caregivers of veterans that are undergoing cancer treatment,” said Turner. “It’s about a 14,500 square feet, $7.2 million home. While they’re staying here, we do have the opportunity to use our laundry room, we’ve got our family room in here, out on the back, we have a summer kitchen, and a covered patio.”
Turner has been serving the country for 41 years, between the military and her work with the VA, and the tour she gave News 6 meteorologist Candace Campos was one of her final tours at the home that’s been her mission for the last six years. Turner has been overseeing operations there since ground broke on the 16-suite house in 2016. and she doesn’t hesitate to get her hands dirty.
“I was able to go through the entire construction process from the ground up,” said Turner. “I learned more about electrical and plumbing, and lighting and all of that during the construction process. If need to clean a room or if I need to clean a bathroom or cook a meal, I just jump in and do it.”
That’s created a comfortable home away from home for families in some of the worst moments of their lives.
“The beauty of it is when guests come here, they don’t have to pay anything. And we don’t limit the amount of time that they can stay here,” said Turner. “The ones that really leave an impact on you are when we have loved ones that are staying here while the veteran is in hospice care over at our community living center. Those stories are just so it really keeps you grounded. It makes you realize how important life is how important loved ones are. And just to be able for them to just walk across the street and spend the last days or hours or sometimes even minutes with their loved one is just really left to such an impact on me. We had a loved one that actually they were from out of state. The veteran became very sick while they were here. So he was in intensive care for 85 days that she was able to his wife was able to stay here and visit with him every single day.”
There are 93 Fisher Houses getting results across the nation, having served more than 430,000 families since they started. The Fisher House foundation was founded by Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher.
“Guests can come in, they can make the food if they want to, we have provide items like you see here, these are all things that have been donated from people in the community,” said Turner.
Turner said she’s hoping as she retires, the community will continue to step up to support the Fisher House like they do now.
“In addition to providing free lodging, we also have a completely furnished gourmet kitchen that’s gorgeous. Here is where we have community groups come in and prepare food for the guests,” said Turner. “That is one of the things that we definitely need help with, is making sure that our guests have plenty of food that’s provided at no cost.”
The House is supported by the Friends of Fisher House Orlando. They do get grants from local businesses and organizations, but Turner said they’re always happy to get more support in the way of donations or financial support. Donations can be made to the organization, or directly to the Fisher House. They accept cash/checks/gift cards and you can mail them to: Orlando VA Medical Center, Attn: Fisher House Manager (George Denby) 13800 Veterans Way, Orlando FL 32827.
But Turner said even though she’s retiring, the Fisher House mission will still be close to her heart.
“I actually feel super excited, because i have so many other things that i want to do out in the community,” said Turner. “I’m still going to be an ambassador for Friends at Fisher House Orlando because I truly believe in the mission.”
“I’m a veteran so I do take great pride in you know, being able to provide lodging to our veterans and their their loved ones,” said Turner. “I mean, it makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing. I’m doing good things for our community.”