Last year, Bill Mount, our chief volunteer gardener, was awarded Gardener of the Year, by the Franklin Park Conservatory during its annual Growing to Green Awards ceremony. We’ve been so proud to have Bill bringing love to our garden, which in turn brings love through fresh vegetables and fruits served as part of meals to families staying in the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. What’s more, the garden has been a great way for families to rest from the stress of the hospital, strolling through the gourd tunnel, picking flowers, or even helping to plant knowing the seeds they put in the ground now will some day help feed families going through a serious medical situation with their child too.
This year, the garden is being nominated for the Boyd W. Bowden Garden Impact Award for Wellness and Health, which is presented to a community garden that has shown a significant and sustainable impact on the health and vitality of the community while developing connections to Nutrition, Wellness, and/or Food Production.
Here are a couple of examples given to support the RMHC Garden’s nomination:
The garden was started with the intent to provide fresh, homegrown produce to families with sick children. Everything grown in the garden goes directly into the kitchens at Ronald McDonald House. This provides three meals days, 365 days a year for families with sick children. It’s also providing education to the families and volunteers at the House through accessible recipes that can be made at home.
Chef Blair Arms has received comments from family members staying at the House about how they had never tried a particular fruit or vegetable, until they saw it growing in our garden. Sometimes it’s the curiosity of the children themselves that prompt the tasting of something new, after a stroll through the garden. When a family has a sick child, they look for answers in science and medicine and they turn to nutrition, perhaps in ways they never had before, to augment their child’s well-being. This happens not just from the families sharing the produce, but also mentally, by strengthening family bonds as they gather to create their own meals in the family kitchens using what they’ve found in the garden.
RMHC of Central Ohio is anxiously awaiting the announcement of the winners of the award. We’ll keep you updated here and on social media as the garden changes and evolves while continuing to feed our families.
The RMHC garden is growing again. When two dilapidated houses behind our main building were acquired and raised by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio in late 2019, that gave rise to the opportunity to turn the 10,000 square feet area into a resource for the many more families we began serving after adding 57 more rooms in 2014. And so the planning began to grow a garden in the void left by the houses that were torn down. Our volunteer director, Kate Becker, was able to help convince Scott’s Miracle Gro to provide a grant through The Columbus Foundation as seed money for the project. Next, she was able to convince longtime volunteer craftsman, Bill Mount to be our chief gardener (for which he immediately won an award from Franklin Park Conservatory & Garden). Bill was able to convince some local businesses to donate nutrient dirt, some plants, & seeds. He has a big tractor and was all set to bring it to the planned garden area to rototill the ground. Only one problem: This was city soil. It was full of bricks, rocks, & archeological finds such as bottle caps and pieces of drywall. The bigger items needed to be removed.
Kate was working on recruiting more volunteers and volunteer groups to come work in our garden with the ultimate goal that the produce grown in our garden would be used by our Chef Blair Arms to make meals for our families. Then, the pandemic hit. Suddenly, volunteers couldn’t be at the House. But we persevered. Staff was filling in doing all kinds of things that wouldn’t normally be part of their duties. That included helping move the big rocks and other large items from the garden space, while everyone was at least six feet apart and wearing masks. The precautions also allowed Bill to come back with his big tractor & rototiller to break into the ground and ready it for planting.
After allowing small groups to come back to work in the garden, we even had a team of Nationwide Children’s Hospital physicians help plant the first rows of vegetables. Local real estate agents & brokers came in small groups to volunteer safely in the garden area too.
So despite the pandemic, we were able to harvest more than 1,000 pounds of produce to help feed the families staying at our House in 2020.
Now, a year after it started, Bill & Kate (pictured together at just arm’s distance this week) are back in the garden and beginning to plant this year’s crop, with the help of staffers Blair Arms & Mekia Hilles (pictured sitting on the ground this week) and some volunteer craftsmen. More volunteers are expected to be invited back as we ramp up preparations for growing season and families are expected to begin helping in the garden even more this year!
We can now call our own volunteer Master Gardener Bill Mount an award-winning gardener. Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Garden’s Growing to Green program promotes community gardening and city beautification. On October 15th, the Conservatory hosted its annual Growing to Green Awards virtually with a Zoom meeting online and Bill was invited to attend.
“We’re proud to host this event every year to honor the amazing work of urban farmers and community gardeners across central Ohio,” the Conservatory’s webpage proclaims. “The Growing to Green Awards honors the dedication and hard work of many central Ohio communities and individuals while furthering Growing to Green’s objective of promoting participation in city beautification and community gardening.”
Bill was announced as the winner of The Community Gardener of the Year award. Each year, FPC says the award is presented to an individual who is exceptionally dedicated to their neighborhood garden and or the movement of community gardening in central Ohio.
An award of $250 will be given to Bill to be applied toward the Ronald McDonald House Garden. Thank you, Bill, for all of your hard work and congratulation on this prestigious award!
“We are in this together.” That phrase has become a call to action across the community. For us at Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of Central Ohio, it means going the extra mile to provide a safe environment for the families we serve. Heading into our fifth month of the living thru a pandemic, the Ronald McDonald House continues to be a refuge for families with a child in the hospital.
Feeding our guests was a top priority when news of the Pandemic began. Typically, thousands of volunteers provide both the food supplies and people power to create meals for our guests. Our team was unsure how we would source and afford fresh and healthy foods. But like our inspirational guests, we don’t give up too easily. We decided to be proactive and grow healthy food! The photos at the bottom of the page are of the Ronald McDonald House garden which was planted by staff and a few volunteer gardening experts.
Regardless of the pandemic, young people still have existing medical and mental health needs. The Ronald McDonald Care Mobile (RMCM) has been working in partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to continue to provide access to much needed primary care. The Care Mobile serves as the medical home for many children and has an obligation to continue to provide the highest level of care possible. Our team of medical professionals on the RMCM helped divert patients with no covid-19 related symptoms, but still needing medical services, from urgent cares and emergency rooms.
In addition, we were training and preparing for our September 15 opening of the new Ronald McDonald Family Room (RMFR) in the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. This new Family Room will provide support for those dealing with childhood mental health challenges, the only facility of its kind in the US. Hospital staff encourage breaks from the hospital floor for the wellbeing of family members. Physical wellbeing; feeling refreshed and recharged. Psychological and emotional wellbeing; feeling less stressed. The Family Room allows family members to switch from the role of providers of care to recipients of care. This experience provides respite from the stress and challenges of their circumstances.
This unique RMFR will also provide the opportunity to find relief from worries and stress related to financial pressures. Families that use this space will generally save $37 a day on average in meals, laundry and travel. They can also shower, store some food in a fridge, have a nap, prepare food and drinks, do some laundry, spend time with their family, talk openly about their feelings, or be alone in a relaxing homelike environment.
Young people have an extraordinary need in Central Ohio and across the country for more behavioral health services and research to help children and adolescents. The Ronald McDonald Family Room is located within the walls of a unique facility dedicated exclusively to child and adolescent behavioral and mental health issues on a pediatric medical campus. The facility features inpatient services, intensive outpatient services, a Psychiatric Crisis Department and research all under one roof.
Family centered care is a priority and the Ronald McDonald Family room will offer respite to families who have children being seen in all these areas. Family-centered care is a priority. Outdoor courtyards, a sanctuary and the Ronald McDonald Family Room offer respite to families. Family-centered care is a priority. Outdoor courtyards, a sanctuary and the Ronald McDonald Family Room offer respite to families. This integrated pediatric behavioral health approach serves as a model for other health care systems across the nation. We are extremely proud to offer this much-needed service to children and families in Central Ohio and beyond.
I want to personally thank each and every one of you who has stepped up to support the services that we provide at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. If you would like to learn more about how you can support our mission, please visit RMHC-CentralOhio.org or feel free to contact me or someone on our team directly. We truly are better together.
If you would like to make a donation to support families at the House: https://rmhc-centralohio.org/donation-form/
With deepest care,
CEO and Executive Director
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio
It’s now been about 6 months since all the planning of the 10,000 square-foot garden directly behind the Ronald McDonald House really began to come to fruition. The plans for the garden had actually begun last year, by Alex Paquet, Summer Fellow from The Columbus Foundation during his position with our chapter. After dilapidated houses had been razed on the lots, which RMHC of Central Ohio had recently acquired, the ground began to be prepared to become a large home for vegetables, fruits, & herbs. When it was planned, it was expected that we could have large groups of volunteers helping to start and regularly tend to the garden. Then COVID-19 interrupted that plan. Though there was a pause in the cultivation of the garden, the determination to make this garden happen couldn’t be stunted. In fact, it seemed more important than ever to get the garden going.
Since the cold start, one regularly-scheduled volunteer has really made it his mission to make the dream of a garden a reality. Bill Mount already spent a lot of time outside at the House, mowing the lawns. An avid gardener, he was determined to get this large outdoor space prepared for planting. Now, he was bringing a much bigger tractor to the House, to till the soil in the garden. But this soil is city soil. All kinds of brick and pipe pieces and stones had to be hand-picked from the soil for the tiller on the back of his tractor to do its job. With now only some staff coming into the House, besides the families themselves, it was decided that the available staff would get busy helping to remove large objects from the dirt, at a physical distance and with masks on. That would be a great start, but volunteers were still needed for the next steps.
When the governor gave the word that our state would begin to slowly re-open, that allowed us to schedule a few small groups to come help prepare the garden for planting. Being a large, open space outside, it was determined only a few small group of volunteers could come help Bill get the garden started while taking distancing precautions. After the weed mats were laid over the ground, a torch device was used to burn holes in the covering to begin planting. One of the small groups to help with this process was a group of doctors affiliated with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The garden was now well on its way to becoming like a small farm field, as one volunteer called it.
Now, we’re proud to announce that we have the following vegetables planted: sweet corn, Indian corn, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, and 150 tomato plants. Pole, bush, & wax beans; summer, zucchini, butternut, & spaghetti squash; garlic; & collard greens are all ready to be harvested. Some kale has been harvested along with all of the butter lettuce. Cantaloupes & raspberry bushes are also in the growing along with sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, dahlias, and Eucalyptus.
There have been grassy cross paths established in the garden to walk around the different plots, which intersect with a round center area where more than 20 varieties of herbs surround a banana tree. Wire tunnels have also been built where vines producing gourds are climbing up the sides. Bill says, “the size of this garden is similar to the size of a large production garden.” But as all of the plants in the garden are reaching for the sun, cattle paneling is used to really make use of the ground space by training the plants to grow upward, making use of all the space. Volunteer Director Kate Becker says, “I envision the garden helping us feed 300 people a day.” The cost of food for families staying in such a large House as ours, finding affordable food can be quite challenging. “We’re feeding so many people, we needed enough food to actually feed our families,” Kate said. That’s exactly what’s happening now. Our Chef Blair Arms has already used beets and and lettuce in recipes for our families. Thanks to the few volunteer groups that have made it happen.
Our garden has reached a milestone today. While we were happy to welcome some members of the Columbus Realtors to volunteer in our garden this morning, we had a pleasant surprise by lunchtime. We were actually able to serve some of the produce from our garden. Families staying at the House who were here for lunch, were able to be the first to try some of the butter lettuce grown and it got rave reviews!
This moment has been a long time coming. Last year, the idea sprouted and began to take form when it was realized that some of the dilapidated houses on property acquired by our charity, had to come down. That opened up a 10,000 square-foot space and the garden location was set. Over time, our volunteers came to embrace this project, including a long time volunteer, Bill Mount, an avid gardener at his own home, began to come to the Ronald McDonald House a little more often to prepare the soil for gardening. It was during a tough time because the pandemic had shut down group activity in the state of Ohio. But we were able to get small groups, distancing and wearing masks, to keep progress in the garden. We even had a group of doctors recently helping plant in our garden.
There’s still much more to do and the garden will need maintained. In the coming months, we hope to be able to have more volunteers helping in the garden while keeping physical distance and keeping this ten-thousand-square-foot garden growing!
Thanks to these business supporters for helping make the garden possible:
– Wholesale Stone Supply
-The Columbus Foundation
-Scotts MiracleGro Foundation
-Franklin Park Conservatory
If you’re passion is your vegetable garden, you probably think of your garden even in the winter. Otherwise, most folks may not be thinking of gardening in February, even though it has been unusually warm during the start of the month. We here at the Ronald McDonald House, however, have been thinking of gardening because we’re excited about our a new garden – our garden – behind the House!
RMHC recently acquired older houses behind our main building and those structures had to be demolished because they were in terrible condition. “With two empty parcels now within our fenced area we wanted to beautify the space,” says our Volunteer Director, Kate Becker. So with the plan green-lit, and funding from a grant approved by Scott’s Miracle Gro via The Columbus Foundation, it was decided that the 8,000 square-foot space would become a garden full of tomatoes, herbs, beans, squash, broccoli and flowers.
“Our intention is that we will use the produce that we grow to help feed the families staying here,” Becker said. “Since we have a Chef on staff who is focused on creating healthy homemade meals for our families this was a perfect fit.”
Of course, it doesn’t just take money to make a garden happen, it takes gardeners. With help and enthusiasm for the prospect of a garden at our House, regular volunteer Bill Mount jumped at the opportunity to help get this piece of our new property growing. Mount is an experienced gardener with contacts in the world of community-gardening, so his help will be invaluable.
Stay tuned for updates about the garden as spring comes!