On June 27, 2017, Judy Skinner worked her last day as a volunteer at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House after serving families there for 35 years. over that time, she had been featured in many social media posts, blogs, and news items about her service to our families. But when she walked away from the House on that day in 2017, she didn’t stop volunteering for RMHC of Central Ohio altogether. In fact, within a month of leaving her position as Housewarmer at the House, she went to work volunteering at the newly opened Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. The RMFR doesn’t have a full-time paid staff member. It is a volunteer who keeps the room open and available every day for family members who have a baby in the NICU or a child who has been admitted to the hospital. For those family members who visit the room when Judy happens to be volunteering, they get the attention of our most experienced volunteer and a mother who understands the importance of having a space for respite while caring for an ill child in a hospital.
Judy and Tom Skinner had a 13-year-old child undergoing treatment at Children’s Hospital in the late 1970s and RMHC of Central Ohio did not yet exist. “Greg, our son, had leukemia for 14 months and passed away,” Judy tells us. She says she never forgot the families she and her husband saw at the hospital adding, “It seemed the best thing to do following that experience would be to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. It was my main way to help people who had been in my same situation.” So, after volunteering at the House since it opened in 1982, and through it’s expansion in 2014 to become the largest Ronald McDonald House in the world, Judy, who lives in Clintonville, felt it was time to slow things down a bit, but not stop completely. “The Ronald McDonald Family Room was a nice way to continue helping in some way, closer to home. Talking with families going through that same situation feels good because I know it helps them.”
The RMFR at Riverside Methodist Hospital just celebrated it’s second anniversary. Thanks to volunteers like Judy, thousands of families have been able to find respite from the stress of having a child in the hospital, if just for a moment. This month, RMHC of Central Ohio kicks off a volunteer-driven campaign to support the Ronald McDonald Family Room. If you would like to show your appreciation to volunteers such as Judy, for keeping the RMFR open and available for families, click here to learn more about the #MyWhy fundraiser.
Just after the new Nationwide Children’s Hospital tower opened, a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House invited a friend – whom he knew to be a talented woodworker – to join him and check out the large wooden animal sculptures in the hospital’s new building. After the two checked out that new building, the volunteer brought his friend across the street and gave him a tour of the Ronald McDonald House. It was at that moment that George Geissbuhler decided he would volunteer at the House that his friend had shown him. It’s now been three years this month that George has been one of our craftsmen volunteers and he says, “This is just quite fun. I love it.”
George has the most fun working with wood (he also volunteers at the Furniture Bank), here at the Ronald McDonald House. Yet, he not only helps to fix furniture, he also works on all kinds of projects including cleaning filters & fixing air conditioners. “We do the stuff that nobody else wants to do,” he says. “I would say the least enjoyable for us, mostly, is sanding a room. You remove the wallpaper and you have to sand the wall of the glue and then paint it at lunch, then paint it again,” he explains. Then George corrects himself, “Actually, the worst job, is grinding the floor when we’re replacing the floor in a room with water damage. It’s a job that’s not very pleasant, but it’s a VERY good feeling when you’re all done when a room was just kind of beat up and when you’re all done, it’s just like a brand new hotel room.”
Although George points out the toughest jobs he has hated at the House, he quickly pivots to let you know, “I can’t imagine not coming here, frankly.” He shares that he knows he and the other craftsmen are needed here because of the families who need the House. George remembers, “We were at one of the Christmas Dinners here, and sat with a couple. It was a mother and a son. He had multiple surgeries. Hearing their story – they live in West Virginia and they were coming up like once a month. She said, ‘This place is like a home to us.’” George says hearing their story prompted him to confess to the family, “Your story is really why I’m volunteering.” He adds, “They couldn’t say enough nice things about the Ronald McDonald House and it just makes you appreciate… I have 3 children… how healthy they are and never had to stay at a place like this.”
George says he’s only toured one other Ronald McDonald House and that was while he and his wife were on a recent trip to New Zealand. They noticed a donation box for the local Ronald McDonald House sitting at the lobby’s front desk of their hotel. George asked where the House was located and decided with his wife that they would get a cab to go check it out. He says the House manager was so hospitable, giving the couple an hour tour of the House, and leaving them with a gift before they left. It was a rock with the Wellston RMHC logo hand-painted on it! One of only 5 that a mother staying at the House had painted.
He’s known at the House for his woodwork, making everything from the donation box at the Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital to wooden golf bag tags for golf outing participants and the plaque given to the golf classic’s namesake, Joe Mortellaro. But George tells us he’ll be making wooden items for sale at the upcoming holiday bazaar at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, so you can take home some of George’s work yourself. And, he says all of the proceeds from his items at the bazaar will go to RMHC of Central Ohio. Thank you, George, for all of the work you’ve done for the House over the last three years, including sharing your woodwork talent!
This will be the second retirement for Connie Sartori. Her first was from her job at Southwest Airlines. Her second “retirement” will be from volunteering at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Right from the start of her job with Southwest, she began volunteering with groups from Souwest Airlines. She’ll be moving to Florida, now that she’s retired after 25 years of service to our families. We had a chance to talk to her on her last day coming in with the Southwest Airlines meal group Tuesday night. That night, the Southwest Airlines meal group donated a brand-new grill to honor the occasion. Thank you, Southwest Airlines, for continually serving our families meals for a quarter of a century. Watch our talk with Connie in the video below as she was about to leave her last volunteer shift.
Q: Who are you guys?
A: We are a group of people that have worked together in the past and remained friends after we moved on to other jobs. We all decided to form a Maker Space Group and chose the name, Solid State Social Club. Our goal is to teach kids, teens and adults about technology and wood working. Wood working for geeks is CNC, we program the computer and the machine cuts out the parts for us.
The people involved with this project and current employer are:
Dennis Megarry – StateAuto Insurance
Tyler Wickiser – StateAuto Insurance
Josh Hamilton – StateAuto Insurance
Johan Van Zijl – Chase
Robert “Downtown Bob” – CoverMyMeds
Q: How did your group start a relationship with our Ronald McDonald House?
A: Robert was on a tour of the House after cooking a lunch meal for CoverMyMeds when he spotted the Game Room there with non-working arcade machines. Since I was already into building arcade gaming machines & Johan into repairing them, we decided this was a great start to our maker group. So we contacted Joel (the House facilities supervisor) and came down to diagnose the issues with the units there already. We were able to repair the pinball machine, and while we can repair the rest, we fund this out-of-pocket so plan to continue as soon as funds become available.
Q: What made you guys decide to do this? Have you done this kind of thing before?
A: I was already making custom arcade machines and Johan was repairing cabinets, so it was a great fit for us. Given how much RMHC benefits the community and children, we all jumped at the chance to help out.
Q: How was it all paid for? Do you have an approximate value of the machine?
A: This was all my personal donation. I bulk buy parts and usually have enough to build a few machines on hand so the expense of this was drawn out over the course of a year prior to this build. We all have families to support as well, so for the moment while we grow, we can only do things like this as we save up the funds. I build custom arcade cabinets for corporate clients who have an employee game room setup, as well as individual people. No two cabinets are alike so putting a cost on one is difficult to do. Depending on options, we’ve made them from $2700 to more than $4000. If we built yours for a customer, it would have been about $3000.
Q: What was involved in making it? Where was it assembled?
A: Making things like this is how I relax after a day in front of the computer at work. It is a lot of fun. Since our group is just starting out, we do not have space to setup shop so it was made and built in my garage (my garage is rather large).
This build though was extra special for us. Lynne Holmes, the graphic designer at the Ronald McDonald House, created the graphics for us. To finish the cabinet, our respective employers gave us each a paid day off through charity volunteering-for-a-day programs. So we need to give a big thank you to StateAuto, Chase, and CoverMyMeds! It wasn’t just us that were involved in this project.
Q: Does it have more than one game?
A: When we build one of these, the insides can go from inexpensive to OMG! Just depends of what people want. For corporate builds, as well as this one, we chose a commercial board which is pre-loaded with games that we bought off of Amazon. It has a lot of the ones adults grew up with such as: Galaga, PacMan, Street Fighter, TMNT, Asteroids, Super Mario, Tetris and many others.. There are more than 2,100 games on this board.
Q: Joel says you’re also repairing our other arcade games?
A: Yes, as funds allow we will be repairing all the machines there. The Ms. PacMan, for instance, has a blown transformer. But rather than just replacing it, the cabinet is in bad shape as well so we will most likely make a new cabinet for it, reprint the original graphics and when finished, it will be as good as new, or better.
Q: Do you have a message for the families that will be using this machine and the others you repair?
A: We built the arcade hoping that it brings a little joy to people when going thru a difficult time in their lives.
It’s been an exciting month for book-lovers who stay at the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus, and we’re not talking about lovers of e-books. Our library has remained pretty much the same for years. But just a few weeks ago, a team of volunteers came in to revamp our library. Over just a few days this during National Library Week AND National Volunteer Week, a team from L Brands including Susan Geier, Carrie Kenneth, Chris Nowicki, Ed Kunzelman; and KP Designs & Associates painted walls and added new built-in cabinets and book cases. You can even literally curl up with a good book within an in-shelf nook!
The week after we reopened the library, 22-year-old Kendal White, a recent graduate from Ohio Dominican University, arrived at the House with a group of friends and supporters to donate books gathered during a recent book drive. White says he’s passionate about literacy and asked his community of friends, family, ODU alumni, & Central State University Columbus alumni to donate children’s books for our library. He hoped to get 200 books, but more than 1,100 were collected, including some books for adults. Thanks to his group of volunteers for sharing the books – along with coloring activities & games – to support our families. It was a great way to also wrap up National Volunteer Month.
Our innovative craftsmen welcomed Jeff into their ranks about a couple of months ago. His involvement with RMH began when Jeff and his wife, Lorna, were cleaning out their shelves and brought books to donate to the House. From there, he got involved with the craftsmen. Jeff loves working with his hands and filling in wherever needed, including the front desk every other Tuesday.
“You listen to the news every day and you only ever hear of the horrible things,” he said. When he’s in the House, it’s different. “I’m amazed at the number of people that donate here and help around here. I’m just trying to give back. I’ve had a pretty good life.”
When you see Jeff around, ask him to show you what a calliope is and sounds like. You won’t be disappointed!
Front desk volunteer Shirley Meyer completed her final shift with the Ronald McDonald House on February 11 after 20 years of service to our families. We had a chance to talk to her after she said her goodbyes to staff and fellow volunteers. Click the image below to hear what she has to say about her experience giving to the House.
When folks think of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio, most think of the big House located across from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. But our chapter also operates the Ronald McDonald Family Room at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. The room is in the same area of the hospital as the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Postpartum Unit. This family room opened in July of 2017 and RMHC of Central Ohio recently announced plans to open another family room in the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, when that building opens next year.
If you’re interested in becoming a Ronald McDonald Family Room volunteer after watching the video, email Vicki.Chappelear@rmhc-centralohio.org.
With the start of the new year, you may have noticed that our website has a slightly new look. Over the holidays, we had the opportunity to install a new format provided to us by the Ronald McDonald House Charities global organization. We hope you like the refreshed look.
In addition to that change, our House has had a few other changes to the building. One impressive and very noticeable change in the House is our family dining area. The dark wood tables and chairs have been painted a cool gray and the blue walls have been painted with a lighter shade. The windowed area also has been wallpapered with a cool white birch tree pattern, bringing a lighter feel to the large room. The entire space was redecorated with funding and volunteering by The Blue Jackets Foundation with the Lady Jackets, (the wives & girlfriends of the Columbus Blue Jackets players & coaches).
Finally, the other low-profile, but nonetheless important, project is the renovation of our stairwells. Gone is the carpeting from the landing. Carpets are a trap for dust and allergens, so these well-traveled spaces will be healthier areas for our families as well as everyone else taking a healthy climb up and down the stairs instead of using the elevators. The stairs themselves are getting a new epoxy coating, with the color being changed from a military green to a lighter gray. Thanks to our volunteer craftsmen for providing the elbow grease for this project. Supplies were provided by Quaker Chemical Corporation with PPG Industries at a deep discount for this project.
By Blair Arms
Food. If we are fortunate enough, we are able to eat three meals a day; maybe more dependent upon our lifestyle. Some love being in the kitchen, others wouldn’t know what to do with a knife. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by grandparents and parents that cooked. I remember being in my Grandma Lou’s (Grams) kitchen when I was little on Thanksgiving, and seeing her freak out because we forgot the mashed potatoes and gravy! Luckily my Grams, a stay-at-home mom of 5 children, whipped out the potatoes from her pantry and put me to work. “We will use the microwave if we have to!” she said. That memory is one of my first memories of being in a kitchen and learning how to make homemade mashed potatoes and gravy (from the turkey drippings, of course). That memory is also one of the reasons I decided to pursue a career in culinary arts and why I link cooking/baking to family.
So, imagine being told that your child has to go a hospital, far away, for an unknown amount of time, and you don’t know anyone in that city. Not only do you have to go to that hospital, but you have to be at the hospital all day to ensure the best care for your child. When do you have time to shop for food? Even if you find the time, would you really want to cook? Our job at RMHC is to take that stress away and create a home environment so you don’t have to think about how you are going to feed yourself and your child (among other things).
Team Cuisine started in July 2017. One Chef volunteered their time, prepared the menu, shopped for groceries and helped prepare the meal. When the program picked up, RMHC knew they had to make Team Cuisine a full-time position. That’s where I come in!
My position as Head Chef is to ensure that the group has all of the necessary equipment and ingredients to make a meal for the families during their stay and that they can prepare it safely with the best sanitation practices. Upon arrival, I survey the group to see how many there are, break them off into teams, and they work at one of the stations that I have set up. After the meal has been prepared, the group serves the meal to our families, as well as takes care of the dishes and cleaning of the kitchen. The whole process is very hands on and interactive.
When coming up with menus, I consider what is being prepared during the week, and what I can buy within the budget. By doing meals through Team Cuisine, we can ensure that the families are being fed a well-balanced and delicious meal, and that the groups know how to prepare a nutritious meal for 100-150 people.
One thing I try to emphasize when I am working with a meal group is that RMH is first and foremost a house. I want the group to envision them being in their own home and making a meal for their family, putting the love and effort into the meal for RMH just as they would if they were at home. I believe that is what makes the group’s experience more authentic and an avenue for some great memories.
Our motto is Keeping Families Close. What better way to keep families than through food?