When a veteran has to stay at a VA hospital, families often have to make tough calls.
If the hospital is a far commute, they have to decide whether to pay for a hotel or motel near the hospital or be stuck far away when they want to support the veteran during treatment.
“I’ve had people who have gone by Wal-Mart to get a tent and a cot because they didn’t know where they were going to stay,” said David Coker, president of Fisher House Foundation, which provides free homes for veterans’ families who want to be close by during a hospital stay.
The $6.5 million project broke ground today at the Dayton campus.
The privately-funded project will be supported by the foundation but also by a $1.075 million donation from local real estate developer Randy Gunlock and his wife Vicki and by a community fundraising effort that pulled together more than $650,000.
Cardinal Health, a Dublin-based pharmaceutical wholesaler, presented a check for an $812,000 donation to the Fisher House as part of the groundbreaking ceremony.
Coker said there will probably be about 500 families a year who stay at the new Fisher House in Dayton, which can house 16 families at a time.
The new Fisher House will be the third in the Dayton region, joining two others at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Glenn Costie, CEO of the Dayton VA Medical Center, said Fisher House had support from residents and corporations in the community that rallied behind the initial donation from the Gunlocks, who spurred the project two years ago with their call offering to make the donation toward veterans through the Greener Pastures Foundation.
“Now I’m used to receiving phone calls for donations of maybe hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, and I’m prepared with projects we have for this purpose,” Costie said. “This donation was well over a million dollars and was presented with the Greener Pastures Foundation with the Gunlock family to help out veterans. So I knew quickly I had to come up with a new project.”
Previously, the VFW had run a hospitality house for decades on the campus, supporting visiting families of veterans who needed lodging help, but financially couldn’t keep the house running. The Fisher House will help fill that gap after it closed two years ago.
Fisher House has a national network of hospitality hospitals which show what the impact of the service can be. Coker said he met a Vietnam veteran in Houston said who told him he had been diagnosed with cancer and lived several hours from Houston.
Since his wife couldn’t afford to stay with him in Houston for eight weeks during his treatment, the veteran had initially decided he wanted to accept the time he had left because he wanted to spend time with his family. After he learned about the Fisher House though, he decided to get treatment and was now in remission.
“So having a Fisher House in many respects helps make the decisions easier on how you are going to address that health care. In this case, it was a success. I suspect one of the heavy users of this house will be oncology patients as well as families coming in for hospice,” he said. “And I can’t think of a more rewarding group of families to be able to serve.”