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Nonprofit Family House executive director to 'take a breather,' quit job

Family House

Mission: Providing critically ill patients and their caregivers with an alternative to extended stays in hotels

Founded: 1983

Number of rooms: 162

Number of locations: Four, in Oakland and Shadyside

Employees: 25 full-time and 22 part-time; more than 300 volunteers

Annual operating budget: $4 million; guest fees cover half of costs; Family House, a nonprofit, relies on grants and donations

Eligibility: Patients and caregivers being treated in any local hospital for critical illness/injury are eligible to stay; 60 percent of visitors are from Pennsylvania, 30 percent from surrounding states and 10 percent from elsewhere

Guests per year: 15,000


Source: Family House

Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Even a once-in-a-lifetime job can become too much.

Seeking to “take a breather” and spend more time with her daughter, Christie Knott, 44, of Hampton, executive director of the nonprofit Family House, which provides shelter and emotional support to critically ill patients and family who travel to Pittsburgh for medical treatment, will step down at the end of the month.

Knott's last day will be Feb. 28, ending seven years on the job.

Family House board member Bob Howard will serve as interim executive director, board chairman Glen Feinberg said. Howard is president of Crown Management Group Inc., a Sewickley-based human resource consulting firm, .

“To find an organization with a mission that just captures your heart and a team of people who do such good work, those jobs come around once in a lifetime,” Knott said. “We've accomplished so much, and to be a part of those guests' lives has just been incredible.”

Family House was founded in 1983 by doctors and civic leaders who said they were tired of watching patients' families sleep in chairs in hospital waiting rooms. It provides critically ill patients and their caregivers an alternative to extended stays in hotels, which are more expensive, while placing them in a supportive atmosphere amid families enduring similar hardships, officials said.

When Knott took over in 2005, Family House had three locations in Shadyside and Oakland. Under her leadership, Family House opened a fourth location in 2009 at University Place in Oakland, adding 48 guest rooms.

“Christie's departure leaves a big hole at Family House, but she is leaving the organization in excellent shape and successfully positioned for its third decade,” said Feinberg, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, Downtown. “Her tenure has been marked by growth in the number, scope and quality of programs.”

Knott and her husband, Ian, adopted their daughter Allie, now 9, on the day she was born in Florida. Allie was 2 when Knott started at Family House.

“I feel like I'm a good mom and my husband is a good dad, but Allie's going to be her own person in no time at all,” Knott said. “It's hard when you have a family and you also have a Family House. I'm an all-in type of person. I needed to scale back a bit.”

Family House regulars said they will miss Knott's constant and sympathetic presence.

“It felt like we'd known each other for years,” said Mary Trahan, who has traveled repeatedly from Watertown, N.Y., to Pittsburgh while caring for her sick daughter Julie. “You could tell Julie was always on her mind. We had a very special relationship.”

Julie Trahan, 32 — who as a child contracted post-viral gastroparesis, a condition that prevented her from digesting food — underwent stomach, small bowel, duodenum and pancreas transplants in 2010 in UPMC Montefiore. She recently went blind, her mother said.

They last visited Family House in September and return often because doctors in upstate New York are not qualified to treat her complicated problems, Mary Trahan said.

In 2008, during her first extended stay at Family House, Julie Trahan observed:

“They have built this place for us — lonely people that are sick and need a place to stay. Somewhere else, I'd be isolated and alone. Here, all of that melts away.”

While it pains Knott to leave, she said she did not want to miss what's left of her daughter's growing up. Other professional women told her that they took time off when they had young kids and never regretted it, she said.

Knott said she will work again, but for now, she wants only to be a mom.

“This has not been an easy decision,” Knott said. “But I've hired some great people. It's got a strong board, and it's time for me to take a breather. I feel like I'm leaving what I helped create in good hands.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5632or



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