The families of tens of thousands of veterans in coastal South Carolina and Georgia will one day be able to be near their loved ones receiving Veterans Affairs medical care without having to pay pricey Charleston hotel rates.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., and the founders of a local nonprofit announced plans Tuesday to build a Fisher House in the city's historic district near the Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center.
Fisher Houses are lodgings where the families of vets or active duty service members stay for free while their loved ones receive care. They are named for the real estate developer who built the first two houses almost a quarter century ago.
There are now 64 in the United States and Germany serving 22,000 military families each year. The Charleston Fisher House will be the first in South Carolina.
The Charleston VA Medical Center serves more than 4,500 in-patient veterans each year from Myrtle Beach to Savannah.
A building in Charleston's historic district with an acre of land has been purchased with the help of the national Fisher House Foundation. Now $3.5 million must be raised to pay off the debt, deed the property to the VA, demolish the building and begin construction.
The house will have 16 suites for families and a common kitchen. With average hotel costs in Charleston of about $200 a night, the Fisher House is expected to save the families of veterans a combined $1 million a year in lodging costs. The nonprofit hopes to begin construction in 2016.
Truxtun Emerson, who with his wife Durbin founded Fisher House Charleston, said the facility will ease the minds of veterans families.
"The purpose is so military and veterans' families can be near their loved ones when a medical crisis arises and focus on what is most important and that is the healing process," he said.
Riley said many of the veteran patients come from miles away.
"Most veteran families can't afford costly accommodations and they miss dreadfully their loved ones and the veterans miss the love and the comfort and the healing benefit of having family nearby," he said.
Durbin Emerson said Fisher House Charleston is a labor of love.
"Trux and I have grandparents who were involved in the military but we have no direct military experience ourselves" she said. "But we love this country. We love what the military has done for us and we thought it was time for us to do something to give back."
Fisher House Charleston: www.fisherhousecharleston.org