Facility is home away from home for vets' families

October 10, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Chicago's Fisher House is located at Hines VA Hospital and is completely accessible to accommodate various disabilities.

Fisher House opened in May with 20 rooms available for veterans and their families at the same time, allowing them to be independent.

The state's first and only Fisher House is a two-story facility that is beautifully built and decorated.

Manager Holly Wright explains some of the accessible features.

"The house is ADA accessible and we do have wide hallways, widened doorways," said Wright. "All of our sinks in the house have where someone in a wheelchair can roll underneath and access items in the kitchen and get through the house easily.

"All of our showers too are roll in, and they do have seats in there so if someone has a harder time standing they can put the seat down and get relief that way."

This is the 44th Fisher House.

"Hines VA Hospital was responsible for fundraising a certain portion of construction costs, and we did relay on several organizations in the community, and they helped us fund raise," said Wright.

"Once the home is constructed, it's then given back to the receiving facility as a gift, and now the VA is responsible for maintaining the home, staffing the home and keeping it going through the years."

Community involvement with the Fisher House is essential.

Michael Austin, CEO of Kronos Food, comes once a month.

"We're a food company and we make delicious food, and so the Fisher House offered us an opportunity to really form a partnership with the charity," said Austin.

Carol Thomas traveled from Glenwood to be with her husband Bobby while he received dialysis treatment three times a week. They were the first people to stay here. Bobby served in the Vietnam War.

"Before this house was built, I was sleeping on the couch, I was sleeping in chairs, sleeping in the car, just anywhere I could," Thomas said. "I am disabled my own self, and just making that ride back and forth, I couldn't do it, and because of his situation I had to stay because I didn't have no one else."

Marie Spoors' husband has been in and out of the hospital since last year.

"He got the shingles back in November, and he had a rare case that grew inside his body," said Spoors.

Her husband also served in the Vietnam War.

While sleeping at the hospital, Marie got some good news.

"They told me about this place, and then I went back home actually for a couple days, and then he got sick again and went back here, and I called Holly and she put me in here," said Spoors.

"To be able to be at the hospital to 1, 2 in the morning, and then come home-- I mean, well, this is like home really," said Thomas.

"We all become their temporary family while they're here and that's what makes these facilities so special, because it's not just a roof over their head," Wright said. "It's all the warmth that they get from the staff and the other guests who are here during their stay."

There is no charge for the families who stay at Fisher House.

For more information you can go to the Friends of Fisher House-Illinois website.

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