The grand opening was Wednesday for $6.5 million Fisher House at the Dayton VA Medical Center. KAITLIN SCHROEDER/STAFF

New home on VA campus will allow families to stay for free

Families of the more than 40,000 area veterans that receive medical care annually at the Dayton VA will now have a place to stay for free when their loved ones get treatment.

The $6.5 million Fisher House, a private/public partnership that received enormous support from the Dayton community, opened Wednesday on the Dayton VA campus on West Third Street.

When a family member finds out that a loved one in the military has been injured, there are two immediate thoughts, said David Coker, president of Fisher House Foundation.

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“You want the best medical care possible and you want to be there,” Coker said.

Dayton’s VA campus is important to the region as it serves veterans from Wright-Patterson Air Force and beyond. The base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 civilian employees and military personnel. The base has an estimated economic impact of more $4 billion a year.

An estimated 500 families a year will stay at the new Fisher House while their family members are treated for combat injuries and illnesses

The busy Dayton VA treats about 40,000 veterans a year at its a main campus and four clinics in Richmond, Ind., Springfield, Middletown and Lima.

“We have a heritage of healing on this campus going back over 150 years. This home continues that dedication to our local veterans and takes the strain off them and their families as they undergo a trying time in their lives allowing them to focus on the healing process,” said Jill Dietrich, Dayton VA Medical Center director.

The average length of stay at a Fisher House is nine days but there has been a family member who stayed for four years, Coker said.

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The project — funded by the Fisher House Foundation and local donors — broke ground October 2017 at the Datyon VA campus.

The 14,000-square-foot building has 16 suites, and communal space with a kitchen, dining room, living and family areas, laundry room and patio. The building has an elevator and each suite has a handicapped-accessible bathroom.

Local real estate developer Randy Gunlock and his wife, Vicki, made a $1.075 million donation and a community fundraising effort pulled together more than $650,000 toward the house.

Vicki Gunlock said at the grand opening that the fundraising effort shows the commitment Dayton has to supporting its veterans.

The Fisher House will fill a gap left after a hospitality house run on campus by the VFW closed three years ago. The hospitality house lodged visiting families of veterans for decades but didn’t have the money to keep the house running.

The Dayton location is part of national network of Fisher hospitality houses, with 36 in the VA and 78 in the world.

The new Fisher House is the third in the Dayton region, joining two others at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The program has saved military and veterans’ families more than $400 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation since it was started.

Steve Young, VA deputy under secretary for operations and management, said the VA is grateful for the latest addition to the Fisher House program.

“We value the Department’s long-standing partnership with the Fisher House Foundation. We appreciate their commitment to our veterans, active duty military and their families.”

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