West Roxbury, Mass.--- Colonel Edward Graham helped open the doors to Fisher House in 2010.
A decade later, his grandson helped keep those inside warm and cozy.
On Tuesday morning, CM 8th grader Mather Graham, the colonel’s grandson, and fellow classmates from Ms. Maura Messinger’s theology class visited Fisher House in West Roxbury to present 40 hand-made blankets for families staying at the home.
Located on the campus of the West Roxbury VA Hospital, Fisher House provides safe and comfortable lodging for families of veterans receiving treatment at the hospital. The guests stay free of cost and stay for however long they need.
“I thought that just having blankets was such a small gesture at first,” said Mather, a West Roxbury resident.
“But after, I realized how much it meant to the families. It helps them cope and reminds them that someone is there thinking of them.”
Sixty-one different Fisher Houses exist across the country. Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher founded the first Fisher House in 1991, according to the Fisher House website. Mather’s grandfather helped greet the first guests who stayed at the West Roxbury Fisher House when it opened in 2010.
In January, CM’s entire 8th grade theology program worked together to make the blankets as a gift to the family members staying at the home. Ms. Messinger started the initiative last year. She adopted it from a project she oversaw during her time at St. Gerard’s Parish in Canton.
“It’s like a fleece hug,” said Ms. Messinger.
“It’s just nice knowing that a perfect stranger is out there somewhere to support them.”
At St. Gerard’s, she oversaw the parish's middle school CCD program. Each year, her students would assemble blankets and hand their finished products off to the high school CCD students. The high school students then passed out the blankets to the homeless on the Boston Common through a group called Operation Lazarus.
When Ms. Messinger arrived at CM last year, she recognized CM’s long-standing tradition of burying veterans with no living friends or family and saw the need to support those still living. Keeping the blanket initiative in the back of her mind, she recommended the project to CM’s Theology Department in the fall of 2018.
“A lot of it has to do with compassion,” she said.
“The compassion not only for the veterans themselves—those going through real health issues—but for their families.”
That fall, the CM Theology Department bought several hundred dollars worth of fabric for Ms. Messinger to start the project. She worked with parents to prep the fabric for her students to use in January.
“It was a great CM community effort,” said Ms. Messinger.
“They overwhelmed me with their support.”
A member of a military family herself, Ms. Messinger understands the impact the blankets make. Her two brothers served in the military. When one died during the Iraq War in 2003, every kind gesture her family received helped Ms. Messinger recover from the loss in the ensuing months, she said.
This year, when Ms. Messinger and her class presented the blankets to Fisher House Manager Elizabeth St. Pierre, the students received a tour of the home and learned about the history of the philanthropy of Zachary and Elizabeth Fisher.
Now, thanks to Ms. Messinger’s initiative, the middle school students at CM understand the difference their donations make.
“I feel like giving blankets provides comfort and offers a sense of community,” said Mather.
“It will make them feel more at home and welcome.”