S.F. couple help make Family House dream come true

It was the sight of families sleeping on hospital floors that prompted them to give.

Bay Area Jewish philanthropists Nancy and Stephen Grand have donated $10 million to Family House, an organization that provides free, temporary housing for low-income families of children receiving treatment for life-threatening illnesses.

Family House Inc. recently announced that it will develop and operate a facility, to be located near the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital at Mission Bay. The new Family House will more than double the nonprofit’s ability to house families of children receiving treatment at the hospital.

Stephen and Nancy Grand

The Nancy and Stephen Grand Family House will provide 80 rooms and the capacity to house up to 250 people nightly. Family House currently operates two sites near UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital on Parnassus — at 50 Irving St. and 1234 10th Ave. — with a total of 34 rooms accommodating up to 107 people per night.

“I had cancer eight years ago, and spent a couple weeks in the hospital at UCSF,” says Stephen Grand, who with his wife has been a huge donor to non-Jewish and Jewish causes — from San Francisco to as far away as Odessa.

“When I would walk the halls at night, [Nancy and I] would see families sleeping on the floor, in the family lounge, sleeping overnight. It was because they had no place to stay.

“I know having cancer was a frightening thing for me,” says Grand, noting that he was in a ward for adults being treated for the disease. “I’m all grown up — but can you imagine [what it’s like for] 5-year-olds or 7-year-olds? It’s scary. If your parents can’t be there … I don’t know what I would do.”

At the time of his cancer scare and treatment, Grand did not know about Family House. But after “we saw all these families sleeping there, we investigated,” he says. When they found out about Family House, “We said, let’s do what we can to make things happen.”

The facility is expected to open in early 2015, about a year after the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital is expected to open.

Says Dr. Arthur Ablin, founder of Family House: “It’s always been a dream of mine at Family House to provide a compassionate and supportive temporary home, free from unbearable financial burdens, for all families of children being treated for life-threatening diseases.”

With the acquisition of the land and the new building, “that dream will become a reality,” Ablin says. “We’ve been so limited in the past, but with the increased size of Family House at Mission Bay, we will be able to help all local families who need our services.”

Nancy Grand has joined the Family House board of directors. She is the immediate past president of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; she and her husband have chaired JCF annual campaigns, and given substantial time and money to a number of Jewish organizations.

Stephen Grand, asked about his health today, proclaims, “eight years, and I’m still here!” After his cancer diagnosis of multiple myeloma, he joined the board of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. With an initial $2 million gift from the couple in 2009, the Stephen and Nancy Grand Multiple Myeloma Translational Initiative at UCSF was established, and the Grands have remained strong supporters.

The San Francisco couple made the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 2010 list of America’s most generous givers, and placed at the top among donors to Jewish causes.  — liz harris