Turning real estate into 'Ronald McDonald House' for veterans

Hero miles for military members: Real estate magnate's plea
Hero miles for military members: Real estate magnate's plea   

Commercial real estate magnate Ken Fisher has made millions for himself and investors. However, the billionaire says he actually prefers to use his housing market expertise to help others, specifically military members and their families.

Fisher is senior partner of Fisher Brothers, a real estate development firm based in New York. That aside, he tells CNBC his main source of pride is serving as CEO of Fisher House—or as he likes to call it, "The Ronald McDonald House for soldiers."

Fisher House builds and provides housing for families of injured military personnel through a public-private partnership with government agencies like the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Because family members of wounded warriors often have to travel to be close to a military hospital or VA facility, the housing is walking distance from the area where family members are receiving care. Fisher House is one of several organizations, such as the Wounded Warriors Project, that seek to help meet the needs of former soldiers.

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'Keeping up' with needs of injured vets

Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher House
Source: Ken Fisher
Ken Fisher, CEO of Fisher House

Ten years ago, the Fisher House Foundation created a program called Hero Miles, which is a partnership with airlines that allows frequent fliers to donate miles to a military family in need.

However, Fisher says the program is in danger of running out of miles. He is encouraging every traveler to donate 1,000 of their miles to help sustain it.

The Fisher Foundation says that the rising need for donations could be attributed to increasing use in the last decade, as more injured military members return home. At last count, there were more than 1 million veterans injured in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"It's all about keeping up with the need," Fisher told CNBC. "All of this has allowed us to streamline our own infrastructure so that 96 cents on every dollar goes to our program's services."

The Fisher House program is funded by Congress, as well as private donations by individuals and companies.

During the last 10 years, the foundation says Hero Miles has provided more than 55,000 airline tickets and saved military families more than $86 million in travel costs.

Fisher points out that only about 1 percent of the total population serves in the U.S. military. For that reason, many citizens may not fully grasp the enormity of those who have lost life and limb on the battlefield.

"It honors the people that gave their lives," Fisher says. " Is there anything more important than what they've given up?"