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Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House Capital Campaign

By Paula Green

 Fisher Houses are comfort homes where military and veteran families can stay free of charge while their loved ones are in the hospital. The first Fisher House was founded in 1990 by Zachary Fisher and his wife, Elizabeth. The couple saw a need for housing for families of hospitalized military personnel. This new style of military housing opened in 1991 at the National Naval Medical Center (now Walter Reed Medical Center) in Bethesda, Maryland.


Today, there are 96 Fisher Houses located at military and VA Medical Centers around the world. The Fisher House Foundation builds the facilities in cooperation with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. Once the houses are built, they are gifted to the U.S. government.    Locally, the Pittsburgh Fisher House opened in 2012 and is located on the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System University Drive campus. Since its inception, the ten-room establishment has operated at or over capacity, so a second house is in the making. The local nonprofit organization Friends of the Pittsburgh Fisher House is in the midst of a capital campaign to raise $3 million towards its construction. The new Fisher House will be at the H. John Heinz III campus of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System in O'Hara Township.


Dedicated volunteers primarily fuel this local $3 million goal for the second Pittsburgh Fisher House. Collaboration with the National Fisher House Foundation will ensure the balance of building costs is raised. The progress in this campaign effort has been made possible by gifts from foundations, businesses, and individual community members. Groundbreaking for the new 16-suite Pittsburgh Fisher House is scheduled for 2025.


"We are honored to work on behalf of families who seek the stress relief and financial assistance that the Pittsburgh Fisher House provides," said Mary Ellen Austin, Vice President of the Friends of Pittsburgh Fisher House board of directors. "We are also pleased to announce a new board member, Navy veteran and former state senator Pam Iovino. Simply put, Pam is a dynamic leader with incredible experience. She has a wealth of knowledge and networks - from her service as a Navy captain to working for the VA as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs – that will benefit the veterans and families we serve. As we expand to support two Fisher Houses, we're also excited to grow our leadership team."

Pittsburgh is one of the few cities nationwide to have two Fisher Houses. "We are thrilled to be able to provide for so many families during a stressful time. The average length of stay at the Pittsburgh Fisher House is six days. If not for the house, each family would incur costs of approximately $1,900 or more in lodging, food, and transportation. So, in addition to the emotional support and logistical case, their financial burden is lifted by the services of the Pittsburgh Fisher House,” Austin said. To learn more about the Pittsburgh Fisher House and its capital campaign initiative, visit


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