Dedicated volunteer receives Air Force-level award

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Dede Richardson, a military spouse, received the 2017 Air Force Fisher House Volunteer of the Year Award during a ceremony Aug. 7, at the Fisher House II, one of two, side-by-side compassionate comfort care facilities at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“She is what we think of as the perfect volunteer for the Fisher Houses because she has a compassionate heart,” said Karen Healea, Fisher Houses manager. The Fisher Houses provide accommodations to military families and veterans receiving treatment at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s medical center.


Fisher Houses volunteers provide such services as fundraising, answering phones, shopping and baking for the facilities, running errands and conversing with guests, Healea said. There are more than 70 such facilities across the nation.


Col. Bradley McDonald, 88th Air Base Wing commander, noted how important the Fisher Houses are to Airmen and the base community.


“The Fisher Houses at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are critical to accomplishing a key part of our mission,” he said. “We are able to take care of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and their families in their time of need due to the outstanding staff and dedicated volunteers like Ms. Richardson. To see Dede recognized as the Air Force’s best is amazing and certainly well-deserved!”


McDonald congratulated Richardson, a key spouse and the wife of Maj. Gen. Duke Richardson, for her “great work with the excellent team running the Fisher Houses.”


She has been volunteering there for more than four years.


“I love coming here,” Richardson said as she accepted a plaque from Col. Shari Silverman, 88th Medical Group commander. “It’s one of the highlights of my week. I feel like I can hopefully do something that contributes, but also be around people who care.”


Silverman expressed her appreciation for Richardson’s volunteerism and the comfort and care provided by the Fisher Houses to medical center patients and their families.


“They can say it’s a home away from home while they are going through what can be a very trying time for them and their families. This award is well deserved,” she said.


Richardson volunteers not only for the Fisher Houses themselves, but also for the Fisher House Foundation Inc. and the Fisher/Nightingale Houses Inc. Currently she is very involved in coordinating details for the 2017 Air Force Marathon Team Fisher House.


“Dede has her hand in everything,” Healea said. “She truly is what you think of with the Fisher Houses. She may be behind the scenes, but she is always working.”


Richardson said she volunteers for the Fisher Houses for a very personal reason – a cousin of hers was hit by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq and lost much of one leg. Her aunt lived for almost a year in a Fisher House facility during her son’s recovery.


“Truly that story, and her telling me what the Fisher House meant for her, made me realize I really want to be involved,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to be stationed at a base where there is a Fisher House. It’s easy to plug in. The people who work here are phenomenal, not only as far as making patients and guests feel at home, but really encouraging volunteers to get involved.”


While she enjoys her volunteer time doing paperwork and computer work, Richardson said, it’s the conversations with the guests and listening to them that are most important.


“They need that. I don’t think you can listen too much,” she said.