Plans for Greater Cleveland Fisher House Rounding Third

By Brian Albrecht, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The more than four-year effort to create a place where veterans and their families could stay for free while a vet is receiving medical treatment here, is rounding third and heading for home.

At least, “I hope so,” said Tom Sweeney, president of the Greater Cleveland Fisher House campaign.

The goal is to build a $6 million, 18-suite facility near the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in University Circle.

The house would become part of a national and international network of 64 such facilities partially funded and built by the 25-year-old, nonprofit Fisher House Foundation, of Rockville, Maryland.

Thus far the local campaign has raised $2.3 million of its $3 million goal. The Fisher House Foundation would match that $3 million amount.

Financial support for the local campaign has ranged from gifts from such corporate donors as Lincoln Electric, KeyBank and the Eaton Corp., to small fund-raisers held by veterans service organizations throughout the area.

Sweeney said the need for a Fisher House here is well established. He noted that, “people from all over America are sent to Cleveland” because of the services offered by the VA’s medical center here – the third largest in the nation — and through its partnerships with other local hospital systems.

Susan Fuehrer, director of the Cleveland VA Medical Center, said about 520 veterans are referred here each year from outside the area to take advantage of treatment in such areas as open heart surgery, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injury and long-term care.

The VA has about 15-20 veterans or family members per day staying in a local hotel while a vet receives medical care.

“There is a demonstrated strong need for a Fisher House here, based on the number of vets and families who are here on any given day,” she said. “We have enough volume to satisfy two Fisher Houses.

“A Fisher House could be a huge benefit to veterans and their families, and a great thing for the city of Cleveland,” she added.

Rick DeChant, treasurer of the local campaign, remarked, “We have this great mosaic of care for veterans in Northeast Ohio. All it’s missing is one tile – a Fisher House.”

Putting that last tile in place has come down to site selection and a primary contender is a 2.5-acre mostly vacant lot on East 105th Street, between Lee and Orville avenues. The site is within walking distance of the VA medical center’s Wade Park campus.

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