While most of the world has hunkered down at home, due to the pandemic, and folks leave just to get essentials or some exercise, our skeleton crew is still here, working to keep families as comfortable as possible while they must be staying here. We’re also working without the thousands of volunteers that keep our House up and running. We asked a few of our operations staff members to tell us what work like has been like since Covid-19 came along and what makes them smile behind the medical masks we all have to wear these days.
Kate Becker is our volunteer director. Though the majority of our volunteers have been asked to stay home at this time, there are a few volunteers still coming to the house somewhat regularly. For instance, work continues on the new volunteer-driven garden behind the House, mostly thanks to a few craftmen volunteers led by Bill Mount. The absence of our regular volunteers are sourly missed during this, national Volunteer Appreciation Week and Volunteer Appreciation Month. But Kate says the volunteer calendar really started to change over a month ago. “Meal and project groups began cancelling as corporate partners told their employees to stay home,” she said. “Almost overnight my team and I had to pivot to complete work more than 20,000 volunteers did previously.”
Instead of overseeing volunteer groups preparing breakfast, lunch & dinner for a hundred people, Kate’s staff became the sous-chefs working with our head chef Blair Arms, who usually works directly with meal groups. “My staff balances helping to ensure we are still serving 3 meals a day, seven days a week, with restocking guest rooms, storing food donations and leftovers, doing laundry, and reaching out to the community to have meals catered for the families who are still living with us,” she says. “We’ve adjusted our schedules so that we’re covering as many hours in the day as possible, along with working on the weekends. We’re now at a point where we’re starting to focus on helping the facilities team here with small renovations. Our House occupancy has gone down and the empty guest rooms have provided an opportunity for renovations that would have previously been hard to coordinate with a full-House. We’re wearing many hats these days!”
Kate points out, though, that this has been a very inspirational time. “Through it all we’re been incredibly grateful and the Volunteer Department team has been so flexible and willing to jump-in where they are needed most. It’s been a wonderful thing to see donations for food and cleaning supplies coming in from the community. We’re proud to serve the families at RMHC of Central Ohio and willing to do whatever work is needed to ensure these families can be close to their sick children.”
Our program director at RMHC of Central Ohio is Darla Stover. Family service managers make up the staff members in her department. It’s a job she knows well because she was once an FSM herself. She also spent some time working in our development department. Darla has been working second shift and helping out at the front desk, now that we have fewer FSMs working. She says, “While working second shift, I am helping the development department secure sponsorships as well as helping the volunteer department by doing laundry and stocking the housekeeping rooms.” Darla’s trademark smile may be hidden by the mask she must wear now, but it’s still there. “What makes me smile are dinners delivered to our families and staff from local restaurants,” she says. The dinners, donated by Everstream, are a real treat on second shift these days. “We are getting spoiled!” Darla says. She says that’s not the only thing that keeps her going these days. “Chocolate helps to de-stress as well daily workouts that the hospital wellness center has provided.”
The program manager who works with Darla is Vicki Chappelear. Vicki supervises the family service managers. She used to be a family service manager as well, so she knows the work that she’s back doing again since the number of our family service managers at the House is smaller during the pandemic. In place of the volunteers that usually keep the front desk running, Vicki is there to help families on a daily basis. She says, “Things have been so quiet in the House with very few families and no volunteers. I have primarily been working at the front desk which has allowed me to interact more with the families something I really enjoy. Since we are mirroring the restrictions at the hospital, we have had many conversations with families about the changes. We are all helping each other navigate the new policies.”
As for having to constantly wear a mask these days, Vicki says that can be a challenge itself. “It has taken a while to get use to wearing a mask—I would not have made a good surgeon.” Like Darla, Vicki also finds herself doing work normally done by House volunteers. She says, “While not having volunteers, I have restocked rooms and done laundry. I enjoy doing laundry because the room is warm and smells good. I have enjoyed seeing all members of the staff come together to help keep the House running. I am truly blessed to be a part of this team!”
Vicki says, despite the coronavirus outbreak, her focus is unwavering. “Even though things are very different right now, the mission remains the same. We are still caring for families who have sick kids and walking that journey with them. We continue to celebrate with them when they get to go home or empathize when things are tough. There’s no place I’d rather be during this time than helping families during a difficult time.”
Mike Berry continues to be a familiar face at the front desk, albeit, a face with a mask on. He’s one of the family service managers working through these challenging times at the House. “We are simply here for the families,” he says. “Over these past few weeks during our social distancing, we have dealt with heartache and celebrations. Not one of these families care about what’s happening in the world at this time. We are here providing comfort any possible way we can. That is why I continue to wake up everyday and come to work.”
Working with Mike often times is FSM Megan Renner. She says it’s a lot more quiet with fewer families in the House because siblings can’t stay at the House currently. What else makes it quieter in the House, we asked. “Less volunteers… we miss you all and hope to see you back at the house soon!” What keeps a smile on her face under her mask? “Still seeing our families that are checked in reaching milestones daily, seeing them happy, less stressed due to our services,” she says.
Overnight manager Amanda Toth agrees with Megan that it is quieter in the House since the pandemic struck the U.S. “It’s a lot quieter in the house and not nearly as many families are here and little ones running around which makes me sad, but I know it’s safer for them to be home.” What makes Amanda smile bhend her mask? “Having families members come up to me and thank me for still working through these hard times and how much they appreciate us keeping our door open. A lot of them will tell me if it wasn’t for us they truly don’t know what they would do. Just that statement motivates me to continue to do what I’m doing no matter what is happening in the world.”
Thanks to all of our staff members taking on double duties and work usually done by volunteers. Our families would be going through a tough time even without a global pandemic, and our operations staff continues to work toward making their stay as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio is committed to the health and well being of our community. Our team is working diligently to address concerns with the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). In an effort to maintain the safety of our community, we have suspended non-essential volunteer groups. In addition, many meal groups have cancelled or rescheduled for a later date. As you know, the Ronald McDonald House and Ronald McDonald Family Room are completely dependent upon volunteerism to operate.
In these challenging times, we are fortunate to have many people asking how they can help us at RMHC. If you are interested in helping us provide meals to guests of the Ronald McDonald House, please consider making a donation. To learn more about supporting the meal program, called Team Cuisine, please email Katherine.Becker@RMHC-CentralOhio.org. To make a financial donation to support our operations, please visit rmhc-centralohio.org/donation-form/.
In addition, RMHC of Central Ohio has postponed our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Handbag HULLABALOO! Dublin in compliance with Governor DeWine’s Executive Order. We will be working with our event committees to announce the rescheduled dates for those events as they become available.
Please know that we sincerely appreciate the support of our community, and look forward to the day that we can open our doors once again to volunteer groups.
RMHC of Central Ohio
We love to share notes of appreciation from our guests and past guests. This one came to us on Facebook giving praise to overnight family service manager Tammy Miller. Tammy has won several Family Service Manager of the Month” awards and is known to be part of the overnight super duo, including FSM Amanda Toth, who decorate the front desk area during holidays.
Just an appreciation post to give a HUGE shout out to Tammy last night (2-22-20). Our little Kipleigh was sick throwing up and just not feeling the best. Earlier, we had been in the office and Kip seen a unicorn. She loved it, but we didn’t get it. Whenever we came down at 11 pm, Tammy helped us get kips temperature and helped us while she was getting sick. Tammy got her a new blankie since she had gotten sick on her blanket from home. Then Tammy said she looked for the unicorn but it wasn’t there. The next morning, we were walking out of our guest room to find a unicorn just outside the door for our sweet girl and it’s safe to say that made Kip happy.
There is nothing better then seeing your child smile, especially over something someone didn’t have to do, but only did it out of the kindness of their heart.
Thank you, Tammy, for always making sure we have what we need and making our girl smile when she didn’t feel good. You are AWESOME!!
A very thankful mommy and daddy
Breanna and Brandon Neff💕
My name is Ashley Agle and one week ago was my first day as a Special Events Intern. I will be working alongside the Development Team to help execute the Handbag HULLABALOO!™ events in both Dublin and Powell. I discovered my passion for this mission during BobcaThon my freshman year. I knew from that moment I wanted to be more involved in BobcaThon and Ronald McDonald House Charities. I have spent the past two summers volunteering at the House in Akron and I have had three different positions on BobcaThon’s team. This year, I am a Co-Director of the Dance Marathon where my friend Dani and I are planning every minute of the big day. We are working on finalizing details because the Dance Marathon is just 24 short days away! Last year we raised $110,020.06 for the House and we are hoping to exceed that!
I am currently a senior studying Child and Family Studies. In a typical week, you will see me running all over campus. I am a proud Ohio University cheerleader where I get to cheer on the Bobcats at football games and men’s and women’s basketball games. I am a member of Delta Gamma Fraternity and I volunteer at various non-profits that highly impact the Athens community. I am also squeezing in as much time as I can with my friends before the bittersweet g-word happens… graduation. I have had a wonderful experience as a Bobcat!
I have dreamed of interning at the House and I am so grateful for this opportunity. Everyone has made me feel so welcomed and I look forward to every day I get to spend here. I am excited to make an impact on these families while learning as much as I can along the way!
Editor’s Note: You can support BobcaThon, which culminates with the big dance event on February 15 by clicking here. To learn more about Handbag HULLABALOO! sponsorship or tickets, click here for Dublin’s and click here for Powell’s.
Where do I even begin, my time here at RMHC has been an invaluable experience. The internship exceeded all expectations and truly touched me in ways that I never knew were possible. At this age, you go into a job thinking of how much it’ll help you and your resume, especially as a graduating senior. It only took me about a week to realize this place would be so much more than just that.
Taking 18 credit hours and working two jobs, I learned the feeling of stress and anxiety all too well this past year. The Ronald McDonald House soon became a place of comfort and ease in the midst of some of my most stressful days. Walking through these doors to a team of caring individuals and volunteers that have so graciously given their time to this mission cures a lot more than you can imagine. The impact this House has on families was made very clear on multiple occasions. On most days I sat in the lobby to get my work done and that soon became the place I experienced the most impactful moments. It was a random Wednesday and to my right, a family walked through the doors with a sigh of instant relief in their faces. I remember thinking about that moment the rest of the day. The next week I saw a family sitting together laughing in the lobby, I’ll never know the struggles that day brought prior to the laughter but I saw the House work it’s magic in giving them that moment together. Weekly, I saw dozens of volunteers walk in and out of these doors putting in time for a mission much greater than themselves. I saw this House create goodness and a love for humanity. Today as I sit here near the exit doors, I see a family with packed bags and smiling faces because they get to leave with a healthy child on their hip. Through all of these subtle moments, I saw the impact this House has made on the lives of so many. I felt the love within these walls each and every day I spent here and always left much better than I came.
The Ronald McDonald House will forever hold a place in my heart, the impact that was made through this experience will last forever. Through my trivial worries I walked into these doors with to the immense distress that families with sick children have felt, I am grateful that we have all found a place of peace within this House.
Thank you to all the families I have met, the team I have worked with and the House itself for giving me the opportunity to witness the magic that goes on inside these walls. Through my internship I learned a lot to help further my career but more importantly, I witnessed the power of love and giving.
My name is Alison Wachtman and I’ve recently been hired on to staff here at Ronald McDonald House as an Events Management Assistant. In my role, I manage all of the auctions across our special events while cultivating new relationships with donors and fostering our existing relationships. I began my time at RMHC this past May as an Events Management Intern. As an intern, I worked closely on the 33rd Annual Joe Mortellaro Golf Classic, which raises around over $300,000 each year for the House! This was the largest event I had ever worked on, and it was truly incredible to see our team pull something of such grandeur together so seamlessly. I am extremely excited to be a part of all of our various events in the future and see how each one uniquely comes together.
I am currently a senior studying Logistics at Ohio State University—Go Bucks! You can often see me cheering on my school in the student section at the Shoe! When I’m not rooting on the buckeyes, I love to rock climb—specifically a form of harness free rock climbing called Bouldering. I’ve been climbing for a couple of years now, and I find that it pushes me to work past my fears as I attempt newer and more challenging routes. I am also in multiple sand volleyball leagues all year round, and I’m gearing up for indoor sand volleyball to start soon! Some of my closest friends play with me, which makes the game even more enjoyable.
In the past, I’ve had experiences volunteering with numerous organizations and international work, and giving in these ways has always been a passion of mine. Now, every day when I wake up and come into work I know that my job impacts a mission that is so much greater than myself. Seeing families around the House and watching events raise funds to make their stay more comfortable during such a difficult time is what I hold on to and what makes this job so special.
I am currently a student at The Ohio State University and just recently started here as a Public Relations and Communications Intern at the Ronald McDonald House and oh what a great experience it’s been already! Growing up in Columbus, the House was a place I frequently heard about and saw often living fairly close to the hospital. My younger sister has been very involved in the youth program at the church I grew up in and The Ronald McDonald House is a place in which they volunteered at often. With that being said, I have always had ties to the House and loved the mission here. This past summer, the company I was currently interning for partnered with The Ronald McDonald House on Food Truck Fridays. This is where I met Ryan Wilkins the Senior Director of Communications and Facilities. I expressed my interest in helping out at the House and looking back I am so glad I did. I began the internship a few weeks ago and I can honestly say from the second I stepped foot in the House I knew I’d be happy here. Knowing my work will really impact the lives of others is an amazing feeling and definitely unique to the industry I’m in. Not to mention, the staff here adds the experience, everyone is so kind and welcoming every single day!
The Ronald McDonald House is here for one reason and that is to help. To help families find a place that feels like home in probably one of the toughest times in their life, when their child is sick. As I begin my projects here, whether it’s marketing an event to our community or communicating with sponsors I know that I am helping one more family find a home in the process. I am extremely grateful that I have been given the opportunity to actively support this mission day in and day out. I look forward to learning more and helping as much as I possibly can.
The 4th Annual Nationwide Children’s Hospital DISCOVERYx program two weeks ago included our own Chef Blair Arms with a talk titled, Beyond Our Patients: Keeping Families Fed. She was one of 7 presenters selected for the afternoon’s TEDx-inspired event. An email from the hospital to staff said the planning committee was looking for hospital community workers to showcase the sharing of ideas, opportunities, experiences or discoveries and how these have contributed to improving health and wellness at the hospital and beyond. The hospital’s DISCOVERYx event has been enormously popular and some of it’s speakers from previous years have gone on to present at both the Columbus TEDx and National TEDx programs.
The planning committee invited enthusiasts from every discipline or area within the hospital community of employees to apply and selected speakers based on their passion and ability to deliver innovative ideas. A professional coach even helped prepare the selected presenters for their appearance on stage during the live event. Through communication, speakers were expected to share thought-provoking ideas to spark conversation, make connections and inspire others. Chef Blair met that expectation, giving an emotional testimony about why she loves her job of guiding groups of people through the process of making healthy meals for families staying at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. Watch her presentation below.
This is one of the most exciting times of the year for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. It’s the time when our chapter has the honor of hosting other RMHC chapters for the RMHC Midwest Summit. It’s a great opportunity for staff members from these various chapters to share knowledge and ideas to improve all of our organizations. This year’s summit welcomes more than 50 chapters from around the country and even a few from Canada.
The three-day educational/training opportunity also allows attendees to participate in a variety of educational sessions. The gathering kicked off today with a general session featuring an inspirational talk from Dave Kaufman, CEO of Motorists Insurance Group who has also been a volunteer and past board member at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
This year’s venue takes place at Top Golf with the unique opportunity to have specialty sessions in the open-air.
Over the last two months, I’ve had the opportunity to intern at RMH and interact with families, staff, and volunteers, learning a lot about who and what makes up the House with a Heart.
When I first walked in and met with Ryan, my expectations were situated within the objectives of the class that I am taking alongside of this internship. The intended scope – storytelling – fails to encompass what projects I have worked on and what writing I have done during my time here.
My expectations shifted from purely telling the stories of those within our House walls to taking on tasks that are relevant for any writer looking at entering the nonprofit sector. I saw firsthand how necessary it is to be adaptable and oriented to the needs of an organization over the desires of oneself.
My creative writing and storytelling fix was filled through a few blog posts, short interviews with a volunteer and a board member, and shaping short content for our Staff Stuff newsletter. These projects would have been sufficient in exposing me to the voice of Ronald McDonald House Charities, yet my internship went further.
Having a background in business writing and marketing, I found that my technical writing and editing skills were valued in a strategic capacity. Tasks ranged from crafting a press release to teaming up with Jessie, the marketing intern, and creating a small marketing plan. I also edited our website’s copy and made suggestions for revision. These projects, among others, gave me the opportunity to apply the skills I had previously accumulated in the classroom in a “real” setting.
As a student, I think there’s often a fear of being unprepared when leaving campus, graduating, and moving into an organization doing great and wonderful acts of love in the community. Long gone is that fear, as I feel the guidance I received, responsibilities I was tasked with, collaboration I participated in, and the love I saw proves how valuable this opportunity was and is. While my impact at RMH may have been minimal, the impact of this internship for me was massive.
Through writing, this internship presented me with the chance use my voice to amplify Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio’s voice. It has offered me a moment of time I can look back at and know that I was lifted up, for the benefit of both RMH and myself, a student, a part of the Columbus community, and a person who will go on to write and write and write.
For that, I am beyond thankful.
Thank you to everyone in the House who made me feel at home from the start, and especially to Ryan and Rick.