By Diane Chun
Plans for Gainesville's Fisher House, serving the families of veterans who have served their country, are gaining momentum.
After two major fundraising events, the nonprofit organization working to build a Fisher House on the grounds of the Gainesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center has raised $1.2 million, according to board member Patti Fabiani.
Before dreams of a Fisher House can be turned into brick and mortar, the foundation must raise $2.5 million, which will be matched dollar for dollar by the national organization.
Fabiani said Friday that fundraising efforts will continue, and the board is hoping to break ground next spring.
"The conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are obviously affecting our community," Fabiani said. "People are very aware of the problems our service men and women are returning home with."
It will receive no government funding.
The home will have 20 family suites, a commons area and communal kitchen.
Once built, the home will be turned over to the VA for management, but the local Fisher House foundation will continue to meet the needs of the families who arrive here.
"If a mom has to be with her son and arrives in Gainesville without even a change of clothing, for example, we want to be there to help," Fabiani said.
The foundation will also keep the pantry stocked, replace bedding, dishes, pots and pans, and more.
"We want to endow the house, and see to the needs after it is built," she said.
Families who want to pay tribute to a particular veteran can buy an etched paver or brick that will form the "Walk of Courage" from the doors of Fisher House to the entrance to the VA hospital.
The next big Fisher House fundraiser will come on Oct. 8, with a "Sauce Boss" tailgate barbecue competition the night before the University of Florida/Louisiana State University football game.
Fabiani said that Gainesville's VA medical center draws patients from 50 counties.
It is one of the busiest in the country.
"We expect Fisher House to be swamped the day the doors open," she said. "We just want to see it done."
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski