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Groundbreaking held for Fisher House

From left to right: Colleen Vonderharr, Fisher House acting manager, Tom Brewerm, State Senator, Don Bacon, United States Congressman, Don Burman, Veteran Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care system director, Barb Yllescas Vorthmann, Nebraska Gold Star Mothers vice president, David Coker, Fisher House Foundation president, Deb Fischer, United States Senator, Jennifer Kogert, Veteran's Affairs Fisher House & Family, Patrick Dawson, VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System assistant director, Rob Norrie, lead engineer, mark the beginning of construction on the first Fisher House in Nebraska during a groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 7, 2019, at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. There are currently 84 Fisher Houses in operation across the United States and in Germany and the United Kingdom.

From left to right: Colleen Vonderharr, Fisher House acting manager, Tom Brewerm, State Senator, Don Bacon, United States Congressman, Don Burman, Veteran Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care system director, Barb Yllescas Vorthmann, Nebraska Gold Star Mothers vice president, David Coker, Fisher House Foundation president, Deb Fischer, United States Senator, Jennifer Kogert, Veteran's Affairs Fisher House & Family, Patrick Dawson, VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System assistant director, Rob Norrie, lead engineer, mark the beginning of construction on the first Fisher House in Nebraska during a groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 7, 2019, at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. There are currently 84 Fisher Houses in operation across the United States and in Germany and the United Kingdom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charles Haymond)

Deb Fischer, United States Senator, gives remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Fisher House project at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska Aug. 7, 2019. The new housing will open in 2020 and be able to accommodate up to 16 families of veterans, military servicemen and their families.

Deb Fischer, United States Senator, gives remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Fisher House project at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska Aug. 7, 2019. The new housing will open in 2020 and be able to accommodate up to 16 families of veterans, military servicemen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charles J. Haymond)

Don Bacon, United States Congressman, speaks to a crowd during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Fisher House project at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Aug. 7, 2019. Fisher Houses offer  free temporary lodging so military and veteran families can remain together while their loves ones receive specialized medical care at military and VA medical centers.

Don Bacon, United States Congressman, speaks to a crowd during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Fisher House project at the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Aug. 7, 2019. Fisher Houses offer free temporary lodging so military and veteran families can remain together while their loves ones receive specialized medical care at military and VA medical centers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charles J. Haymond)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- A groundbreaking ceremony for the first Fisher House in Nebraska was held at the Veterans Affairs NE-Western Iowa Health Care System’s Omaha campus next to the VA Medical Center in Omaha Aug. 7, 2019.

Fisher Houses are homes where military and veteran’s families can stay free of charge while a loved one is in the hospital.

“Fisher Houses are built on partnerships and partnerships begin with community. It’s what we do together that makes the biggest impact,” said Colleen Vonderhaar, Fisher House acting manager. “Together we ensure that not only our military and veterans are cared for, but also their families can be nearby and recuperate in a safe and welcoming home. We are so appreciative to all who have made this happen and look forward to welcoming families in the near future.”

The Fisher House program was established in 1990 by Zachary Fisher. Fisher was a New York real estate developer and philanthropist who helped veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces and first responders. Presently, there are 84 Fisher Houses in operation across the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.  

“Many of our Veterans and their families travel long distances to receive care at our facility,” said Vonderhaar. “We are honored to be bringing a Fisher House to our campus to allow Veterans to remain close to their loved ones while receiving care within our organization.”

The facility will be 15,000 square feet and feature 16 fully furnished suites, a large kitchen, dining room, elevator and full laundry room for the families of the veterans and service members being treated at the VA Medical Center. 

“When a veteran needs to stay in a hospital for a long period of time, often, their family’s well-being is more pressing than their own,” said Chief Master Sgt. Brian Thomas, 55th Wing command chief, who attended the ground breaking.

“Having the Fisher House facility near by helps to alleviate that concern because they know their loved ones are taken care of,” Thomas added. “We are proud to have this facility so close to our Airmen, Veterans, and families during their greatest time of need and serves as a beacon of hope for those who will use this facility for years to come.”

“Having the Fisher House facility near by helps to elevate that concern because they know their loved ones are taken care of,” Thomas added. “We are proud to have this facility stand in our back yard as a haven for veterans and their families during their time of need.”

The project is funded through the Fisher House Foundation and donations. The facility will be handed over to the VA to operate as a federal building once construction is complete. It is expected to open in late 2020.

“The Veterans and staff of the VA Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System would like to thank the many community organizations, Veteran Service Organizations, charitable foundations, and individuals who have generously supported the effort to bring a Fisher House to our campus,” said Vonderhaar. “We hope each time a Veteran or family walks through the front door of our Fisher House that they understand this is America saying thank you.”