Fisher Houses Benefit Military

Staff Writer

When a medical emergency arises, the last thing anyone wants to think about is where they are going to stay while their loved one undergoes treatment. This worry is no different for members of the military and on Tuesday morning New Bremen New Knoxville Rotarians heard from the executive director of Fisher-Nightingale House Inc. who helps put that worry at ease. 

Chris Stanley spoke to the group about how the houses, three of which are located in Dayton, and the organization came to be. 

Starting in May of 1990, Fisher Houses — named after the Zachary Fisher whose foundation, Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation, helped fund the construction of the homes — have provided a place to stay for almost 25,000 military families — of any branch and any status — at the two houses located near Wright-Patterson Medical Center. More than 368,000 families have been served nationally by the organization. 
There are 84 houses globally and Fisher Houses have saved families more than $451 million in hotel costs alone and have provided more than 9 million nights of lodging. 
Fisher came onto the project in late 1990 as he was a known supporter of members of the military and started a foundation which made contributions to military family members who were victims of several attacks, including the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. 

With the foundations help several Fisher Houses were able to be built across the nation, including the three in Dayton — two at the Wright-Patterson Medical Center and one at the Dayton Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center. 
The facilities in Dayton were started when Capt. Gretchen Lizza’s son was diagnosed with Leukemia. While taking care of her son, she met several families and found that many struggled with finding affordable extended housing. She had a vision of creating a home similar to a Ronald McDonald House but on-base for military families. After months of work, the Nightingale House was established. 

Over the last 29 years, the houses in Dayton have grown and evolved to fit the needs of the families who utilize them. The first house, the Nightingale House — which is no longer standing — was a converted duplex with three bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and living room areas on each side.

There were issues with this house as it was not handicap accessible and, at times, would have six families sharing two bathrooms. 

From this house moving forward, houses were designed and built to be more accommodating to the families. Fisher I was built in 1994 and was a two-story building with private bathrooms. This unit cost $1 million to build. 
Fisher II was built in 2011 as a single story facility next to the Fisher I building to create a campus feel. The $4 million — $1.2 million raised locally — construction added 1,500 additional stays per nights per year for veterans and active military families. 

The Dayton VA Fisher House was built in 2018, with a construction project of almost $7 million which added 6,000 more nights of stay per year for the organization. 
The Dayton facilities alone add 13,500 nights per year for families.

To make these houses a reality, three groups are working together. The Fisher House Foundation funds and builds the homes. They then offer the buildings to the government and walk away. 
The houses themselves are owned, operated and managed by the government. House managers work for the directors of the VA Medical Center or Wright-Patterson Medical Center and it is those two facilities that establish the policies and procedures of the homes. 

To read the full story pick up a copy of Wednesday's Leader.