• 3250 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
  • (518) 481-0552
  • 3250 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
  • (518) 481-0552

Clinton Township VVA supports Fisher House effort

By Linda May , For The Macomb Daily


A Fisher House is a place for families to live while their loved ones are in a Department of Veterans Affairs or military hospital. Fisher House Michigan, the first in the state, is going to be built on the campus of the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor a grassroots partner in the effort to build the facility.

One of the donors is Chapter 154 of Vietnam Veterans of America – based in Clinton Township – that recently made a $500 contribution to the cause.

The Fisher House Foundation’s network of comfort homes is where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost. More than 28,000 families used Fisher Houses in 2016, accommodating about 950 families per day. More than 305,000 have used the facilities for more than seven million cumulative days.

Fisher Houses have up to 21 suites, with private bedrooms and baths and common kitchen, laundry, dining and living rooms. The program has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $360 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation.

“Fisher House Michigan started as a Rotary Club of Ann Arbor Veterans Initiative project in summer 2015,” Karen Kerry said. She is a past president of the Ann Arbor club. She spoke about last November’s event called Service Above Self – Honoring Our Veterans that was organized by Rotarians.

“As a club, we wanted to celebrate the service of our veterans on Veterans Day and also honor Art Holst, a longtime member of our club, professional public speaker, and a World War ll veteran who fought in Patton’s Third Army,” she said.

Seven veterans spoke in the packed auditorium about their experiences in the military and many shared their personal experiences with Fisher Houses. Past club president Ashish Sarkar expressed an interest in bringing a Fisher House to Michigan.

“So we merged the ideas and the project was born. We hosted the free public storytelling event – think Moth Story Hour, but veterans stories –- at Hill Auditorium,” she said.

The Fisher House Michigan project is its own nonprofit, Build it for the Brave, that has raised $600,000.

This year’s event – called “Vets Retake The Hill” is at 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan campus.

“The event and the Fisher House Michigan project, along with a veterans job fair at Washtenaw Community College, now define our club’s Veterans Day and week celebration honoring the service and sacrifices made by our military,” she said.

“We are honored to be helping bring the first Fisher House in Michigan to 640,000 Michigan veterans and their families,” Kerry said. “We have signed on to help raise $3.5 million which will be matched dollar for dollar by the Fisher House Foundation in our capital campaign.

Veterans who use the multi-specialty Ann Arbor veterans hospital come from all over Michigan and nearby states with their family members.

“After the house is built, the Fisher House Foundation will turn over the new 16-family suite lodging to the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System to administrate. Veterans and their families will be able to stay for free at this new facility. We would love for this initiative to become a project that other Rotary clubs in the district can feel good about contributing to,” she said.

The Ann Arbor hospital recently received approval and can start building its Fisher House in 2019.

“The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154 recently made its donation to the Fisher House Michigan to support their efforts to provide assistance to our wounded servicemen and servicewomen,” past chapter president Brian Bobek said. “This organization provides support services to the families of patients at the hospital.

“We first became aware of Fisher House at a VVA convention several years ago, and had the opportunity to hear about the great things they provide for families of wounded soldiers,” Bobek said. “Up until that time we were unaware of their existence and what their mission statement was. They had established a center out east near Walter Reed Hospital and were in the infancy of trying to get additional facilities started in other major cities where there are veterans hospitals.”

The first two Fisher Houses opened in 1992 in Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, Md.

“Fisher Houses are to veterans what Ronald McDonald House is to grievously sick children – a place for parents and loved ones to live in close proximity to veterans while they are going through the worst possible of times,” Bobek said.

Bobek said that the mission of Chapter 154 is well aligned with Fisher House, “to ensure that our veterans receive the best of care, regardless of their circumstances.”

“We are blessed to have Fisher House Michigan here near one of our flagship hospitals, and are hoping that, in some way, our small contribution will aid Fisher House Foundation in establishing additional facilities in the near future, possibly near the John D. Dingell VA hospital in Detroit. When our fighting men and women are at the lowest point of their lives, dealing with catastrophic injuries and recovery, it is imperative that their families be close at hand to support and encourage them.”

Donations to Fisher House Michigan can be sent to: 3250 Plymouth Road, Ste. 103, Ann Arbor MI 48105. The phone number listed on its website Fisherhousemichigan.org is 734-646-9372. The email address is info@fisherhousemichigan.org.

The VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System is one of 14 future sites recommended for Fisher House construction. The Fisher House Foundation, which has a four-star Charity Navigator rating, has built and donated 31 Fisher Houses to VA and 40 Fisher Houses to the Department of Defense.

“Fisher House is simply one of those best-in-class organizations and we want to do everything that we can to support their important and noble mission,” former Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald said.

Donate flight and hotel rewards to Fisher House

Fisher House Foundation also operates the Hero Miles program, using donated frequent flyer miles to bring family members to the bedside of injured service members. Its Hotels for Heroes program uses donated hotel points to allow family members to stay at hotels near medical centers without charge.

The Foundation also manages a grant program that supports other military charities and scholarship funds for military children, spouses and children of fallen and disabled veterans.

Marine detachment auxiliary gives to community

The auxiliary to the Marine Corps League Macomb County Detachment 154 recently made a donation to Miracle Quilts.

“Miracle Quilts is a local charity that makes quilts for our wounded troops, veterans and veteran families. All of these quilts are handmade,” Irene Spooner, auxiliary secretary-treasurer said.

It was named after Joseph A. Miracle, a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

“In the month of December alone, Miracle Quilts delivered 30 quilts to Fisher House in Landstuhl, Germany, 21 to Troy Beaumont Hospital veteran patients, 52 to North Oakland County Friends of Veterans Court for the children of the veterans.

Another 42 went to a World War II Pearl Harbor ceremony, two to local veterans families with eight children, and to a local veteran who had a stroke.

“Our donation was used to purchase supplies for these wonderful quilts which I believe are truly miracle quilts,” Spooner said.

The auxiliary also gave donations to Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Chief Petty Officers Association at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan Warriors Hockey Program, Southwest Solutions Piquette Square, Veterans Foundation, VVA Chapter 154’s Operation Christmas, and Street Medicine Detroit.

“We gave out a total of $1,200 to charities that helped active military, veterans, homeless, wounded veterans, and military and veteran families.

Auxiliary members also delivered canned goods and nonperishable food items to the Chapter 154 food pantry.

“We were given a tour of their facility on 15 Mile Road in Clinton Township,” Spooner said.

“One of the fundraisers we had in 2016 was our Victory Quilt raffle. Auxiliary President Loretta Balderson donated a beautiful handmade quilt for this fundraiser. It was the first time our auxiliary did something like this and we raised over $300 from the ticket sales,” she said.

The detachment holds a membership event 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 22-23 at the Walmart store at 44575 Mound Road, Sterling Heights. They will pass out small flags to shoppers and accept donations.

“This fundraiser puts us out in the community to find veteran Marines who are unaware of our group,” detachment commandant Christine Tonegatto-Salo said.

For more information, call her at 586-801-0081.

Bowling event supports boat outing

A bowling event taking place today, April 15, raises money for a free boat outing for veterans on July 22.

“Thank a Vet” by bowling three games for the Boat4Vets effort. At 6 p.m., there are three games of nine-pin no tap, shoe rental, mystery games and door prizes for $25 per person at Colony Bowl, 4962 Pte. Tremble Road, Algonac. For more information about the bowling fundraiser or to make a donation, call 586-716-9254.

The free boat outing is at 10 a.m. July 22 at the Idle Hour Yacht Club on Harsens Island on Lake St. Clair just south of Algonac. Contact Forrest Walker at walker00@comcast.net or 810-512-4660 for information about taking part in the outing or becoming a supporter. An alternative number for information is 810-512-4664, or, see boat4vets.com.

Send service club and veterans news to: Linda May at lindamay@ameritech.net. Or mail c/o The Macomb Daily, 19176 Hall Road, Clinton Township MI 48038. Phone 586-791-8116.