Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill

The best time of the week for me is Mondays from 6 to 9 pm when I volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. I love my team: evening manager Michelle, night manager Antoinette, volunteer chair masseur Bill, and my shift partner, the Batman to my Robin, the Ginger Rogers to my Fred Astaire, the Ying to my Yang, etc., Margaret! There are also the Therapy Dogs with their owners and the different dinner groups that cook for the families.

The first question people ask me when I tell them I volunteer at the House is what do I do there. Well, on a typical evening there are families to welcome and check into and out of the house, there are rooms to set up for incoming families, there is always tidying up to do, vacuuming, helping out volunteer dinner groups, cleaning the kitchen and dining room if the dinner group has not done so, I also manage the ADP Sorority volunteer girls that come in to help out – they are great! I am also the official announcer of dinner on the PA. I do this in English and Spanish for our Hispanic families and I occasionally throw in the accent of whatever geographic area dinner is from! I am also the official receptionist for the people who bake goods for the house, mostly high school kids that get Community Service hours. A big part of that job is making sure the quality of the baked goods is up to the high standards of the House. Another part of my job is just to hang out and be there. Sometimes you chat with members of the families because they need to talk, so you listen to their stories.

You see, we get so caught up in our lives and we think our lives suck and we bitch and complain. When you listen to a parent whose kid is in the hospital for whatever reason, or you get the privilege to actually hang out with the kid, and you realize that maybe my life is not so bad. It is not unusual, when I finish my shift for me to leave the house crying. So if the weather allows I prefer to ride Rocinante to the House so my tears dry in the wind.

Speaking of Rocinante. The other day was a quiet evening in the house (some rooms were closed for renovations), and the House had just launched a fundraising campaign selling Ronald McDonald socks. The campaign asks those who purchase socks to take an “interesting” photo with them and post them on the House’s internet site. So we wheeled old Rocinante into the House to take our pictures with the socks on. Good times!!

Then there is the annual volunteer recognition brunch in which we celebrate the volunteers that have been there since forever and have worked literally thousands of hours, amazing!

So now you know where to find me on a Monday evening. Come on down and I will show you around.

Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill

Ronald greeting families House mailbox This must have been taken in Spring

A few posts ago I mentioned the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. This house provides a (free) home for families of hospitalized children to stay for the duration of the child’s treatment. I am happy to have continued my volunteering there this semester. The way it works, is I work a 3 hour a week shift arriving at the house at 6pm. I say hi to the girls in the shift before me, check what is for dinner and then make the announcement for dinner over the PA. This is usually done in the accent or includes the language of the meal the volunteers have prepared. Thus if it is pasta I will make the announcement in English with an Italian accent and so on, always a good laugh! . Then we might have to check in new families, prepare rooms for arriving families, make sure the kitchen is clean, and manage volunteer groups – normally undergrads and usually sororities, I love cracking the whip!

The people there are fantastic, the volunteers, the staff and the families. I specially bond with the Hispanic families as they appreciate being able to chat in Spanish. When I can check in a Hispanic family to the house their eyes light up to know we can do it in Spanish!

Finally it provides for a huge reality check when you see what these families and these children are going through, one realizes one has a pretty damn good life. It is a humbling experience. Since my sister works for the Ronald McDonald Houses in Spain, it makes for a very strong bond with the house. Occasionally they will need extra help with special events where it is always fun to help out. You get to meet interesting people while helping out!