Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House  

Fisher House was founded in 1990 by Zachary Fisher and his wife, Elizabeth. The Fishers saw the need for comfort homes for families of hospitalized military personnel, so they dedicated $20 million to the construction of the facility. 

The first Fisher House opened in 1991 at the National Naval Medical Center (now Walter Reed Medical Center) in Bethesda, Maryland. Today, there are 92 Fisher Houses built by the Fisher House Foundation in collaboration with local VA Healthcare Systems and military bases. Each Fisher House is between seven and 21 suites and can accommodate 16 to 42 family members. They feature a common kitchen, laundry facilities, dining room and living room with a library and toys for children. In addition, Fisher House Foundation ensures that there is no fee to stay at one of their facilities.  

Pittsburgh welcomed their Fisher House on December 4, 2012, and in 2013 the Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House (the Friends), a local charitable 501(c)(3) organization, was established to support the Pittsburgh Fisher House. The 10-suite Pittsburgh Fisher House is located on the University Drive campus of VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in Oakland. The need for family accommodations is so high that a second and larger Pittsburgh Fisher House is currently in the planning stages.  

“The Pittsburgh Fisher House is often over capacity, which is why a second house is needed. When the Pittsburgh Fisher House is full, guests are accommodated at other locations. Still, they do not benefit from the hospitality offered at the House and the shared experiences with others in similar situations. Since opening, the 10-suite Pittsburgh Fisher House has provided 37,455 nights, housed 5,900 families and saved veteran families millions in lodging, parking, food and other necessities. In 2019, the Pittsburgh Fisher House provided 3,852 nights to 1,034 guests, accommodating nearly three times as many families as in 2012 when the House first opened. In November 2021, 65 families stayed at the House and the average stay for that month was seven days. Additionally, there were 20 ‘overflow’ nights when the House was full, and guests were accommodated elsewhere,” said Mary Ellen Austin, Board Vice Chair of Development for the Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House.  

The Friends are seeking help for the Capital Campaign to build the second 16-suite Pittsburgh Fisher House. “Currently, because of COVID safety protocols, in-person volunteers are not allowed inside the House, but support can come in many ways. The Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House is raising funds through a Capital Campaign, Helping Heroes Heal, to build the second House. The Friends are looking for enthusiastic volunteers to be a part of the Capital Campaign Committee to raise awareness and funds for the second House. We’re always appreciative of donations to the current House, and in-kind contributions can be purchased from our Wish List. We’ve had companies that raise funds through employee participation. We’ve had artists who donate proceeds from the sale of their work. And we’ve had affinity groups including state and local military associations, book clubs, bicycle or motorcycle clubs, or running groups raise funds through special events or rides/races/runs for a purpose. The Friends participate in matching gift programs, Combined Federal Campaigns (CFC), UNITED WAY, Amazon Smile, Network for Good, and other programs. Heather Frantz, the House manager (412) 360-2030, can work with interested volunteers who might want to sponsor a dinner or cater a holiday meal. Gift Cards are appreciated for guests,” Ms. Austin added.   

Groundbreaking for the second Fisher House is slated for 2023, with a projected ribbon-cutting in 2024. For more information on how you can support the Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House, visit their website at www.pittsburghfisherhouse.org.