Article by Jessica Ubel, Development Manager of Heartfelt House Ronald McDonald House Charities
When a child is hospitalized, sometimes for months on end, little else is more important to a parent than seeking treatment and recovery for their sick child. Although many parents would endure sleeping in hospital lobbies and eating from vending machines, we are here to offer a more stable solution.
The Heartfelt House of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is a part of a global organization providing a “home away from home” for families whose child is receiving medical care, just steps away from their child’s hospital bed. Our hope is to eliminate any barriers that would distract a parent from focusing on their child— be it a cozy place to sleep, prepared meals to enjoy, access to laundry, or even entertainment to enjoy between treatment—all offered at no cost to them.
Our clients are often traveling from out of town to seek proper medical treatment for their child, so we do all we can to ensure they receive both care and community. It’s amazing to witness bonds that form between the families who share the same medical journey!
When COVID-19 began to sweep through the nation, the RMHC Global issued a statement that RMHC houses could no longer accept new guest families. However, we continued to serve families that were currently staying in the Heartfelt House until their child was discharged from the hospital.
Our operations had to drastically shift in order to protect the RMHC families and our staff. We limited exposure by temporarily closing our common spaces, like our kitchen and playroom, amped our disinfecting policies, and sadly, closed our building to volunteers and non-essential staff. However, our community is amazing! Restaurants and individuals came together to provide packaged meals, so we could safely feed and care for the families we continued to serve.
As we entered April, there was an increasing vacancy in our building and we hated to see it go unused, so we pivoted our approach to continue to care for our community in a different way. The CEO of our Oregon chapter of RMHC, Jessica Miller, immediately reached out to our hospital partners and proposed a solution: house medical staff potentially exposed to the virus.
Since hardworking doctors, nurses, and emergency responders were serving tirelessly to protect our community from COVID-19 while continuing to provide other types of medical care, we offered a safe, comfortable place for them to stay—eliminating the worry of exposing their families to the virus.
In June, we were finally able to open our doors to families again! Just like businesses, it’s a progressive opening, but thankfully we can move our mission forward in our community. Volunteers and fundraising will look different during a pandemic and economic crisis; however, we are encouraged by those who have continued to support and donate to Ronald McDonald House Charities! We are committed to serving this community, and that is something COVID-19 can never change.
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