Families of veterans visiting the Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia will soon have a home away from home.
Charity Fisher House is building a 16-suite complex to house the families of military members and veterans staying at the hospital. Stephen Gaither, board president of Friends of Mid-Missouri Fisher House, visited the Fulton Rotary Club on Wednesday to encourage locals to support the project.
"Callaway County veterans absolutely end up at Truman," he pointed out.
Suites at a Fisher House are first-come, first-serve. Families may stay for a single night or, depending on circumstances, much longer. When rooms aren't available, Fisher House may pay for a hotel room for the family.
Fisher House has built 78 similar facilities at military hospitals and installations both at home and abroad. Currently, only one exists in Missouri (St. Louis). They've provided temporary housing for more than 35,000 families, saving them some $405 million in lodging costs, Gaither said. The Fisher House Foundation has a perfect rating on Charity Navigator.
The foundation hopes to break ground on the new facility in early 2021, with a projected completion date in late 2021. The total cost, including furnishing, is estimated at $6 million.
"Fisher House Foundation doesn't dedicate to building a new house unless it has the resources in place to do so," Gaither said. "However, our local group wants to try to offset the cost."
After completing the facility, the Fisher House Foundation will donate it to the Truman VA hospital. Gaither worked at the hospital in public relations for decades before his recent retirement.
"Strictly speaking, VA health care benefits are for veterans only," he said. "Sometimes, we'd try to get creative in accommodating a family that came from a long way away. Fisher House lets us do that in a way that's not legally shady."
During the next couple years, Gaither's organization will be working hard to raise funds for the project. Many volunteer opportunities will be available as well. To learn more or get involved, visit facebook.com/midmofisherhouse.