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Linda Deutsch of Newport was scheduled to have surgery on her shoulder Sunday morning at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, but she and her husband didn't have to pay for a hotel room Sunday.

The duo stayed at the Mario Pastega House instead, paying only $20 a night.

"This runs right at the rate people can afford, and it's right at the hospital," Deutsch said.

On Sunday afternoon, the Mario Pastega House celebrated its fifth anniversary as being the home away from home for patients and their loved ones at Corvallis' hospital.

Pastega, a local Pepsi bottler and philanthropist, was mingling at the party, clad in his trademark Greek fisherman's cap.

He said the equivalent of 26,164 rooms have been occupied since 2004.

"It's helped a lot of people," Pastega added. "There's a lady here from California now, she said she didn't know what she'd do if we didn't have this place. You're helping people in difficult situations."

Pastega came up with the idea to create the facility, spearheaded a fundraising effort to create it and jump-started that drive with a $350,000 gift. He figures he's given somewhere around $500,000 or $600,000 for the program.

Jerry Millis, head of the local hospital foundation, said the Mario Pastega House almost always is full. "We have to turn people away. Of course, Mario wants to expand it, and sometime in the future, we probably will," Millis said.

The event included cake and Pepsi, live music and visits by Corvallis notables, including LaVonda Wagner and five players from the OSU women's basketball team.

The Mario Pastega House has 12 rooms, and though the suggested fee per room is $20 a night, no one would be turned away for inability to pay.

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at kyle.odegard@lee.net or 758-9523.

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