I was asked to write a little bit about myself for this blog. So here it goes. My name is Jessie Strait and I am a junior at Capital University studying public relations and music. I recently joined the RMHC family as the marketing and communications intern, and I am very excited about it!
Growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to be (I still kind of don’t). At first I wanted to be president of the United States, then I wanted to have a talk show, and then I thought I should stick to something easier, like being an internationally-renowned pop star. As I started to mature, my career goals did as well. But I still kept the same ambition. In middle school and high school I was a part of a performing group that travelled around central Ohio, performing songs for residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities (we even visited Nationwide Children’s Hospital). Though I found joy in singing, I found a deeper joy in talking with the residents afterwards and hearing their stories. As we continued to perform, I continued having meaningful conversations with people. Before I knew it, college was around the corner. And being a pop star isn’t a major. So, at the age of 18, I did some research on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life until I retire. No pressure. Because this task seemed daunting, I went back to what I love- developing relationships with people. People get a bad reputation and the news cycle seems to perpetuate that idea. I pride myself in loving people, past the flaws. Sure, it’s hard sometimes, but it’s worth it. So when I heard the words “public relations”, I thought I might enjoy that. And so far, so good. I have learned the skills necessary to help an organization reach its publics in meaningful ways. Oh, and if my pop career works out, I added music as my other major. Just kidding, I just like music. But also, watch out Ariana Grande.
I have always lived in the Columbus area, so I am very familiar with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the RMHC of Central Ohio. My friends have volunteered here. I heard the stories of families that have been helped by this amazing charity. I knew that RMHC is one of the best organizations in the Columbus community. So when I got the opportunity to intern with RMHC, and help the charity that has made a difference in so many peoples’ lives, I was overjoyed. I am going to work hard to support the RMHC mission. I am excited to be a part of this family.
By Christin Dornback
This is Christin, the new writing intern at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I come to RMHC by way of The Ohio State University and their commitment to connect students and community through direct service-learning courses. I am a senior English major minoring in Nonprofit Management, and my biggest motivator is community and our shared stories. I love running and yoga, warm, caffeinated beverages, trying to keep houseplants alive, and hiking!
I’ll be contributing to this blog by sharing the stories that RMHC of Central Ohio holds, and I hope to connect the world outside with the magic that goes on inside of the house– because it really is magic.
During my freshman year of college, one of my loved ones, Erin, was diagnosed with a degenerative cognitive disease. For the months before and the months following the diagnosis, Erin was in and out of a children’s hospital. Although our family didn’t stay in a Ronald McDonald House during that time, I became aware of the specific needs that a family has while their child is in the hospital. I understand, on some level, that the place between needs and the fulfillment of them is where the magic must come in.
When you enter Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, you understand that this is where magic lives.
Here at the House, there is an abundance of support and love in the air here – and it’s not simply because Valentine’s Day is approaching! There is kindness, smiles, and laughter throughout the halls: results of the dedicated care and efforts to bring comfort to our families by the staff and volunteers. I hope to share this magic, show you the hearts of our families, friends, staff, and volunteers, and help us all focus on joy in the face of hardship as RMH is Keeping Families Close in our community.
February is related to two things – being the coldest month of the year and Valentine’s Day. Because you can feel the effects of February’s subzero wintry temperatures, I will write my first blog about the later. That topic is obviously more warm and fuzzy!
Valentine’s Day! It’s a day to appreciate those we love and shower them with gifts of flowers, chocolates, clothes (fun socks are my favorite), or jewelry. Some may find themselves at an exquisite restaurant sharing a nice bottle of wine to pair perfectly with their dinner. Or, for me, I like the practical and simple – spending time at home with my kiddo and husband-soaking up the smiles and laughter.
At the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio, it’s Valentine’s Day 365 days of the year. On my first day in my new position I felt nothing but LOVE! There is a sense of kindness in the volunteers, an affection from the staff and comfort in the families because of the love they feel in the House.
The staff at RMHC greeted me with warm smiles and welcome notes, sharing how grateful they were to have me! A Tervis sat on my desk that read, “Share the LOVE”! Throughout the hallways of the House there are signs that have such comforting phrases as, “Life takes you to unexpected places, Love brings you Home.” My favorite place in the House (right now), is at the end of a hallway, where a set of large scrabble tiles spell out the words, “FAMILY, HOME, LOVE”, next to a comfy chair with a fluffy pillow.
The people who fill the House, take extra special care of each other. Volunteer groups come in and prepare meals, baked goods, and prepare activities for the families. For example, the Banner Lady, (this is how she refers to herself), brings in cut-out shapes and letters which she spreads across two tables for families to construct banners. These brighten up their patients’ hospital rooms or their own rooms here at the House. The banners hang with as much love as was put into making them. Generous donors make contributions allowing for families to wash their clothes, sleep in a comfy beds, have running water for a shower, access computers, or enjoy the piece of the outdoor garden.
There are so many other expressions of Love that I could tell you about, but I invite you in to visit the House and see that LOVE in action for yourself. Come see the smiles, come see the gestures of kindness, come see families giving other families comfort sharing their experiences & challenges.
The Ronald McDonald House has always had a special place in my heart and in my first few days as a team member, it has become a whole new level of special to me! Ronald McDonald House Charities, truly does keep families together and Valentine’s Day happens 365 days-a-year here!
Four years ago this month, I toured the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus for the first time. The House and everything it offered blew me away! I told myself I would volunteer and make a difference. But I didn’t follow through for a long time. Life got busy and I was working in an industry where my schedule had no consistency.
Five months after touring that house with 88 bedrooms, an accident on a family vacation left my youngest brother, Austin, paralyzed and on a ventilator and my family checked into a small Ronald McDonald House in Tallahassee, Florida with only eight bedrooms. I can’t begin to describe the surreal feeling of going through the motions of getting to the hospital, waiting in a room for the doctor to finally come talk to you, and that doctor telling you that this accident will have a best-case scenario of your brother being a quadriplegic. Those first hours were honestly the scariest moments of our lives because we had no idea the outcome and it wasn’t anything that we could ever have been prepared for. Austin spent June 1 through November 18 of 2015 in the hospital with my mom by his side while the rest of us split our time between working and traveling back and forth from Ohio to his new hospital in Chicago.
I know firsthand that what we here at RMHC of Central Ohio provide for families is more than just a bed near the hospital. It’s the community of support that comes from strangers taking care of you and every family going through something completely different who can still relate to the chaos that comes with the daily uncertainty of a hospital stay.
Since that fateful year, I’ve been a volunteer, a volunteer manager, and now a member of the development team here at RMHC of Central Ohio. As Strategic Partnerships Associate, I’m working with the community to make sure families with ill or injured children in the hospital can rely on our House for years to come. I’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received from the community because it takes a village to keep the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House running.
One of the “Villages” I am immensely involved with is our Red Shoe Society, which is a group of young professionals dedicated to supporting RMHC of Central Ohio and our families. Each month, week, and day I’m amazed by what this group accomplishes. From Saturday morning breakfasts, to Friday night kitchen cleaning, to various community fundraisers this group has fun while supporting the House. With each member of RSS donating just $12 each month to RMHC, we’ve raised over $8,000 to support the house! Can you imagine the impact on the lives of our families if more young professionals joined us in supporting our 12×12 program for the House? The possibilities are endless and only requires a minor budget adjustment.
I’m optimistic about 2019 and all the ways families from all over the country – and the world – will be impacted by the relief that is provided by RMHC of Central Ohio this new year and for years to come.
Marilyn & Bob Holb like to volunteer their time reading to students at Salem Elementary School in Columbus. About a month ago, Marilyn read the book, “How I Became a Super Hero” to fourth grade students at the school.
The book was written by our House’s frequent guest, 8-year-old Ashton Zari. Ashton was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease around his third birthday and since then, he has spent more than 300 nights at the Ronald McDonald House. Ashton says he decided to “write a book to make people in the hospital feel better”. He also says he wanted to encourage people to understand the power of kindness.
After finishing reading the book to those 4th graders, the Holbs informed the children that all of the profit raised by the book is donated to The Ronald McDonald House. This inspired the children to do a little writing of their own. They decided to write greeting cards to Ashton to thank him for writing the book and for helping the Ronald McDonald House. They also wanted to let him know the book was uplifting for them too. Marilyn & Bob delivered the cards to Ashton while he was staying at the House recently, and we were able to listen in as Ashton read a few of the cards aloud to his mom, Amanda, sister Addison, and brother Alex while sitting in the Ronald McDonald House dining room. Click the links below to hear Ashton read a few of the cards.
Ashton just celebrated his ninth birthday on December 20th while staying at our Ronald McDonald House and shared the celebration by giving to other kids staying with us . Happy belated birthday, Ashton! For more about Asthon, visit Ashtonsbirthdaywish.org, or you can purchase “How I Became A Super Hero” directly at Ashtonsbirthdaywish.bigcartel.com.
At the Ronald McDonald House Charities International Conference late last week, the RMHC global organization awarded ten RMHC chapters from around the world with the prestigious “Hearts and Hands Award,” which is accompanied by a generous $20,000 grant to the winning chapters. RMHC of Central Ohio was honored for the Team Cuisine program, highlighting the McDonald’s food donation program. We’re honored to be recipients of this prestigious award for such a unique program considered to be a role model for RMHC chapters across the globe. What follows is the award-winning submission prepared by our team which explains how this innovative program works to help feed our families, save food resources, and save money:
What happens when you combine the heart of the Ronald McDonald House, the expertise of a world-class chef, generous volunteers from throughout the community, and an innovative opportunity to cut food waste and benefit families from our partners at McDonald’s? In Columbus, Ohio, we call it Team Cuisine – and it’s magical. From the beginnings of the Ronald McDonald House movement, providing stress relief for the families of seriously-ill children has been our goal. What better way to reduce stress than by providing excellent, healthy, delicious food for our guests at no cost to them?
Last year, our team learned that owner/operators of McDonald’s restaurants in the area could choose to freeze and preserve food that they could no longer serve for the purpose of donating it to eligible local charities. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to pair our expertise in hospitality with the food expertise of McDonald’s. Recent statistics show that over 30% of food in the U.S. goes to waste. We saw a chance to be a change-agent in regard to that statistic and created a pilot program to put that food to work for families at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. But before getting into that, let’s look at how the meal program grew at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House.
In 2014, our building expanded to a massive 137 guest room facility, able to accommodate hundreds of people each day. With that expansion, we collaborated with local commercial kitchen experts to build a new state-of-the-art volunteer kitchen that could serve families cafeteria-style. But something unique started to happen. We noticed meal options were limited, and our guests were eating very similar meals each day. We believed we could do better. So, our leadership put together a plan to improve the RMHC meal program. After piloting a program with two contracted chefs, and receiving tremendously positive feedback, we decided to hire a full-time chef. In order to accomplish this, this new program, Team Cuisine, would take the ingredient purchases out of the hands of the volunteers. Now, they could make a donation of $350 for breakfast or lunch, and $450 for dinner, rather than shopping themselves. We launched this new program to tremendous fanfare on January 1. And to make it even better, our development team was able to secure a sponsorship of the program by Alliance Data Systems to the tune of $50,000.
To lead this new program, we tapped Chef Blair, a highly-experienced food services professional from The Ohio State University and a volunteer at the House. Her experience in high-volume cooking, paired with her love for the mission of RMHC, made her uniquely qualified for the job. And she has been a hit. Working full time, her energy and passion for the House has helped us to grow our relationships with corporations in the community. And with her buying expertise, we have dramatically decreased the cost of ingredients for our meals. Our team is currently spending less than $150 per breakfast and lunch, and less than $200 per dinner, providing over 350 meals each and every day that are healthy and with great variety. This includes more fruits and vegetables, and fewer carbs and sugars. We are also now able to provide more protein – which is where our friends at McDonald’s come in.
After learning that McDonald’s was able to put good food to good use and donate unused protein, we had an idea – use it for Team Cuisine meals at the Ronald McDonald House. One of our local owner/operators loved the idea and agreed to participate to help reduce our budget and provide a great outlet to give good food a second life. Now, twice per week, volunteers from the House visit a local McDonald’s to pick up fish, sausage, hamburger patties, chicken nuggets, grilled chicken, crispy chicken and more. We are currently receiving 25 to 50 pounds of protein twice per week. Needless to say, this has been a welcome addition to our offerings. It has been put to use in a very unique way. For instance, Chef Blair recently made delicious fish tacos using Filet-O-Fish that was donated. She also made chicken parmesan that would rival any meal from the best local establishments using McDonald’s Crispy Chicken. She even created Mexican chicken bowls and chicken tostadas using protein from McDonald’s. This has been an amazing relationship builder with the McDonald’s owner/operators and crew members, and they are full of pride knowing that this food is being put to use for our guest families.
Now corporations, community groups, and others who are looking for team building opportunities have a program at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. With their minimal investment of financial resources, groups are given the unique opportunity to work with a talented Chef, learning the culinary arts. Teams work together to make restaurant-quality food, and it’s a lot of fun. But most of all, they are making a tremendous impact on the lives of children and families from around the world staying at our House.
This year alone, 240 groups will participate in the Team Cuisine program at the Columbus Ronald McDonald House. This is leading our charge to build strong partnerships with corporations in the community, and is leading directly to greater investment in RMHC of Central Ohio related to financial support and volunteerism. And the best part is that guests at the Ronald McDonald House are thrilled with the meals that they are now being provided, at no cost to them. The meals are consistently nutritious, full of variety, and delicious to eat.
Last year, RMHC of Central Ohio provided 112,500 meals. The impact of this program is vast and growing. With the leadership of Chef Blair, our Team Cuisine program stands to not only increase the number of meals provided, but healthy and varied meals, all while helping to eliminate food waste.
By Joel Merrill, Facilities Director
I was asked recently to write a few lines for our blog this Independence Day. It was suggested that maybe I write a little about myself and my work here at the House. A spotlight of Joel Merrill, if you will.
I am not the story. I am just a person who is thankful this July 4th for having this incredible opportunity to utilize my years of maintenance training and my love of the Ronald McDonald House Charities all at the same place.
I consider myself the luckiest guy on the planet. I am able to work with the many volunteers and staff members that are here to keep the Ronald McDonald House a wonderful home away from home for the families that have sick and injured children at one of Columbus’ local hospitals. Families from all across America that may be far away from other relatives & friends with whom they might usually be grilling out with or sharing a fireworks show with on this holiday. While there are too many local volunteers to give good credit to here on this blog, they all, without exception, give their time, energy, and experience every time they come in. The volunteers have the biggest hearts and care so very much for the families from across the country and around the world. After all, volunteering is the all-American thing to do.
The volunteers that I am honored to work with the most on a daily bases are people that we call our “craftsmen.” They work on projects mostly that involve making things or making things work again. They build benches, event sets, and toy boxes, among other things. They make repairs to the buildings. They upgrade rooms. They keep the yard mowed and trimmed. They help keep this big House the great temporary home away from home that it is. And we wouldn’t be able to do it all without the help of group volunteers who sign up from time to time to come in and help spruce things up. Groups like workers from the Honda manufacturing facility in Marysville. Or the workers from American Family Insurance that set aside a Saturday last month to come in and help with landscaping and painting rooms, for example. We even have a Deloitte Day every year when so many of those folks get to leave their computers at the office and come in to get their hands dirty. That’s what America is all about.
I have been involved with the Ronald McDonald House in some way for about 10 years now and have never lost the awe of just how the volunteers can do what they do.
I hope that I never become so involved with being a staff member that I lose the “sight’ to see and observe how my fellow staffers and volunteers interact with the families that are our guests. It is just amazing to me to see the joy in the children’s faces when Mel sits with them and just talks. Or to see the love that Dottie puts into every room that she “restocks” for a new guest. Or how warm Courtney is with the guests. Those are just a few examples of the “Heart” that is the Ronald McDonald House.
Take a little time to reflect, during the 4th of July holiday, on how wonderful heart -warming the Ronald McDonald House is and how much of an all-American welcoming, positive “vibe” there is here. If you haven’t had a chance to see inside the House, yourself, we invite you to call and set up a tour. Listen to the interactions. Observe the love, the compassion, and the caring that is spread by all.
I do not know how anyone can spend 5 minutes here and not fall in love with everything/reason that the Ronald McDonald House is here.
By Kirby Boes
June 19, 2018
Hi, I’m Kirby! I’m from Worthington, Ohio and will be a senior at Miami University in the fall where I am double majoring in Strategic Communications and Psychology. Today is my first day interning at the RMHC Marketing & Communications department and I could not be more thrilled to be here!
This is the story of how I ended up here at the Ronald McDonald House for my 2018 Summer internship.
In the spring of my senior year of high school at Columbus School for Girls back in 2015, I needed to fulfill our senior “May Program” graduation requirement in which we were to individually find any company, business, or organization to intern/shadow at for the month of May leading up to graduation. After taking time to think about what I wanted to get out of this experience I realized I wanted to intern somewhere that was a good cause and made a positive impact in our community. So, I ended up at the Ronald McDonald house working in the Donor Relations department, where I assisted in planning the RMHC Golf Tournament fundraiser, along with several other fundraising events. I truly could not have asked for a better experience! Over the past few years since this experience, I’ve never forgotten how much I enjoyed my time at the Ronald McDonald House, which is why it was the first place to come to mind when searching for communications/marketing related internships this summer before my senior year of college!
After reaching out to RMHC Senior Director of Communications and Facilities, Ryan Wilkins, about a summer internship he immediately welcomed me back on board, which is why I am sitting here today writing this blog post on my first day of this great internship at the RMHC Department of Marketing & Communications.
So far, I have been here only 4 hours and have never felt so welcomed anywhere in my life. Ryan and the other members of this department have all gone out of their way to welcome me into the RMHC team. I can tell they truly care about my growth and success here at RMHC and that is such a wonderful feeling.
Today was focused on goal setting, where I outlined what I hope to get out of this internship as well as what I would like to work on during my time here. This was to help Ryan understand what I would like to accomplish, however it turned out to help me in a number of ways too by giving me the chance to really think about what I want to gain through this experience, what I would truly like to focus on, and how I can play an active role in the RMHC community. Additionally, this goal setting activity made me feel wanted and appreciated by the RMHC staff, demonstrating that they are actually happy to have me on board and that they value my time here as much as I do.
Today was an outstanding first day and I cannot wait to learn more about RMHC, communications & marketing, nonprofits, and myself during this time at RMHC. I’m very happy to be here!
By Melissa Ransom, Family Services Manager
Three years ago I joined this great organization, the Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio. What an absolute joy and honor it has been to have a window into the amazing community that surrounds and supports this home away from home for so many. Each year, I’m honored to help this House provide rest for thousands of families that find themselves in such extremely difficult circumstances. As a Family Services Manager, I feel fortunate to be able to be there for folks who just need a helping hand in the form of a bed to sleep in, a homemade meal to eat, or just escape from the hospital to enjoy a bit of normalcy.
A big part of my job serves as that first contact for the families as they arrive here at the RMHC of Central Ohio and go through the check-in process and then again at the end of their stay as they are able to be discharged to go home. This is such a unique experience as each Family Service Manager is able to hear a bit of the story of each individual family and their experience with their stay at the house. On one such evening about a month ago as I was checking out a very grateful family, the mother began to pour out her thankfulness to me and explain how this House was such an absolute stress reliever and answer to her prayers! With tears in her eyes she communicated her gratefulness, as she lived in a very rural area in Michigan and was not familiar with big city life at all. She was very overwhelmed at the thought of traveling to a big city and then to arrive here and be greeted by this home away from home – one in walking distance to the hospital where her son was being treated – was beyond her expectations! Over and over she thanked me as we completed the check out and she walked of my office leaving a huge smile on my face.
There are so many stories similar to this and yet there are such heavy and hard ones as well. In some instances, the family comes back from the hospital where they’ve received difficult news that any parent or grandparent would struggle to comprehend. In those instances, we’re here just to give a hug or to sit and cry with the family as we do our best to comfort them with all the empathy and concern we can give. Overall, its all the amazing stories of triumph and brave children and all the positive outcomes that make serving in the position so gratifying. Having this role allows us to be eyewitness to the strength of families and allows us to feel fortunate to help provide an amazing service to so many that just need someone to take the time to help them when they need a little extra support during a tough situation far from home.
That also means we’re in a wonderful position, as Family Services Managers, to also see firsthand, how the greater Columbus community comes together in so many ways to work toward a single, common goal of supporting those who’ve been thrust into our midst because of an ill child. It’s one of the greatest joys anyone can experience and I am blessed to be able to do that on a daily basis here at the Ronald McDonald House.
Hey all, Anna B. here – I recently graduated from Miami University and landed my dream job working for the Ronald McDonald House! Throughout high school and college, I pictured myself in just about every career aside from this one. I simply never considered it an option to work somewhere I’ve come to know and love. The Ronald McDonald House always just seemed like a fun place to spend an evening baking for the families or stopping by to drop off pop tabs. I never thought I could actually work here. That is, until I sat down with my soon to be boss (shout out to you, Jamie Fotlz!) about a year and a half ago to hear about what she does for a living. She opened my eyes to the world of fundraising and development – specifically, the role of planning fun and unique events to achieve the mission of an organization. It was that day that I decided I wanted to start building a career at RMHC and join the team of people who “keep families close”!
My earliest memory in the Ronald McDonald House was back in 2009. I was in seventh grade, and my friends and I came into drop off pop tabs. My mom’s trunk was full of them! It was the start of summer, and after a full school year devoted to taking every single pop tab off of the Gatorade cans at lunch. It cracks me up every time I tell someone from middle school that I work here. They immediately bring up the memory of my friends and I wearing big janitor gloves digging through the very full (and very gross) trash cans during our study hall. I don’t remember what exactly sparked this kind of devotion to RMHC – but, we loved collecting pop tabs. We came in and got a tour of the House. I was amazed by how much fun and love filled a place that I assumed would be really sad. I am still captivated by the love and joy that fills this home-away-from-home. Its proof that kindness for one another goes a long way.
Now, its 2018 and I am still collecting pop tabs, but I finally get to spend my days here at the Ronald McDonald House full time! I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work alongside so many amazing staff and volunteers. Jamie had flowers waiting on my desk on my first day, Tom the volunteer invited me to ride on the dolly during lunch on Thursday, and George, the craftsman made me my very own ice cream scoop. Everyone has been more than welcoming my first few days. There has yet to be a dull moment.
I’ve always liked the quote “a house isn’t a home without a family” because it rings so true, especially inside these walls. I owe everyone here a huge thank you for welcoming me into this McFamily!