Lewis Griswold

Visalia foundation to build respite home for hospital

The Rotary Respite Home will be built on a now-vacant lot in Visalia.
The Rotary Respite Home will be built on a now-vacant lot in Visalia. lgriswold@fresnobee.com

The Rotary Respite House – a free place to stay for out-of-town families visiting loved ones in the hospital – will have its formal groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday in Visalia.

The Visalia Rotary Community Foundation is building the duplex and will lease it to Kaweah Delta Health Care District for $1 a year.

Hospital CEO Lindsay Mann and the board of directors approved the project and lease arrangement, said Don Hutton of Visalia, who played a key role in getting the project started.

The same vision was shown earlier by previous CEO Tom Johnson and the board at that time, he said.

“Without their courage, the reality of the Rotary Respite House would be a myth,” Hutton said.

In tribute, the home will be known as “Al’s Place” in honor of the late Al Fisher, a model Rotarian who, with his wife, Sharon, and son Mark, was very generous in supporting community projects.

It will be built at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Watson Street on a vacant lot where a dilapidated house was demolished by The Bryan Co.. And it’s only a few blocks from the hospital.

The new duplex will have a two-bedroom, two-bath unit on one side and a three-bedroom, two-bath unit on the other side, both with laundry facilities. It will be fully furnished.

It’s not the first respite home that the hospital has been involved in establishing.

In 2000, Christ Lutheran Church bought a home next door to the church. Member Cathy Hutton, Don Hutton’s wife, had the idea that Kaweah Delta could use it for something similar to a Ronald McDonald house. For 11 years, the Katie Luther home filled that role and was occupied between 250 and 300 days a year.

When that arrangement ended, Don met with Larry Benevento and Steve Chrisman, board members of the Visalia Rotary Community Foundation, and suggested a project to replace it.

“They were enthusiastic and took it to the board,” Hutton said.

Hutton found the abandoned property and attorney Phil Hornburg sorted out the legal issues with the heirs so the foundation could gain title.

Architect Fred Scott designed the duplex, and many businesses and individuals have donated time, money and services to make the house a possibility. BJ Perch will be the contractor. The city also has been supportive, Hutton said.

Donations still are needed, and donors will be recognized on plaques on the house.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Rotary Respite House will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday. It is expected to open July 1, 2016.

Lewis Griswold covers news of the South Valley for The Fresno Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold

The ceremonies

What: Groundbreaking for Rotary Respite House

When: 10 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Corner of Myrtle Avenue and Watson Street in Visalia