Chris Stanley, Fisher/Nightingale Inc. executive director, describes plans for a $6 million Fisher House at the Dayton VA Medical Center campus. Produced by Barrie Barber.

Fisher House fundraising will benefit VA patients, families

Supporters of $6 million project now focused on endowment.

Initially, the $500,00o goal was set as a match for a $1.075 million donation Randy and Vicki Gunlock of Springboro donated to construct the 16-bedroom house. The non-profit Fisher House Foundation would pay the rest of the cost.

A fund raising initiative has $300,000 in hand with another $175,000 pledged, said Michael E. Zettler, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and part of the fund raising drive.

The endowment would help fund operational costs of the home tentatively set to open in September 2017. The homes are a place for veterans who are patients and for the families of in-patients facing extended medical treatments to stay without charge.

“If you can build an endowment, then you have the endowment there for the tougher times where fund raising isn’t as easy,” Zettler said after speaking at a Thursday press conference at the Dayton VA. “You want to have an endowment like this that you can draw on when the time comes.”

VA and Fisher House officials are awaiting a review of the building site before construction begins. Much of the Dayton VA campus is a national historic landmark, and Ohio law requires a state and federal review of a plan to tear down two 19th-century vacant homes where the new Fisher House would rise, officials said.

The houses to be torn down are Building 220, a two-story brick home built in 1885 that was once a hospitality house, and Building 221, a two-story beige home built in 1876.

The VA asked for the review in March, and it continues to work with the State Historic Preservation Office, the National Park Service and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, said Kim Frisco, a Dayton VA spokeswoman.

The state can’t mandate preservation, but encourages it through the review, said Emmy Beach, an Ohio History Connection spokeswoman.

“Although our preference is preservation, when that’s not possible we work to preserve that history in other ways,” she said.

The future Fisher House has a new manager, Betsey Striebel, a 44-year-old Dayton native who grew up in Beavercreek and most recently managed the Fisher House at the Palo Alto VA in California.

“Veterans are so thankful to have their loved ones nearby in a safe and beautiful house, and the families are beyond grateful to be bedside and just a phone call away at any time of the day,” said Striebel, the daughter of a deceased Vietnam veteran who she said dealt with health issues related to exposure to Agent Orange.

The Fisher House project added to its total Thursday with an $11,000 Dayton Warriors Softball Fund donation. A music concert at Miami Twp.’s Austin Landing at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, will donate ticket and beer sale proceeds to the Fisher House, officials said.

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