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!
Angie Hartley has been with our Development Team for more than a decade. Over this last year, we’ve all been working hard to keep the doors of our Ronald McDonald House open. Those doors can only stay open with revenue and that’s something Angie is focused on throughout her workday. She took a moment from her important work to answer a few quick questions about her time at RMHC of Central Ohio. Below is the result of this Q & A.
How long have you been working at RMHC and what is your current position with our chapter?
I have been working at RMHC Central Ohio for 11 years and currently serve as the Senior Development Director. I started in January 2010 as the Development Director and moved into my current role about six years later.
What drew you to work here?
There were a few things that drew me to RMHC. What first drew me to RMHC was the opportunity to work with Dee Anders again. Dee was my boss at a previous non-profit and I really enjoyed working with her. She was teaching me so much and she’s successful in fundraising. I wanted to continue to grow and learn under her so when the opportunity came for me to join her, I was very excited. The second thing that drew me here was the mission. I am a firm believer that to be a successful fundraiser you have to believe in the mission yourself. When you do believe in the mission, it never feels like a job, it feels like a passion you get to share with the rest of the community and invite them to come along.
I became a mother while working here and it truly made me thankful to have resources like this in our community. It wasn’t until a few years later that we would get to understand firsthand how beneficial RMHC is to families of hospitalized children. My son had to be hospitalized for four days for pneumonia. While my husband and I chose to stay bedside, we absolutely did not get the rest, nutritious meals, and – more importantly – the breaks we should have taken to be in the best state possible for our son. Seeing him hooked up to all the machines and having to wear an oxygen mask, we just felt like we couldn’t leave him. I still have a photo of my son and me holding hands while he slept in the hospital bed and I slept in the recliner next to him.
What’s the most challenging time you’ve had here?
I would have to say the most challenging time I have had here was during the pandemic. Our doors remained open to serve families in what was truly their greatest time in need. The community plays an integral role in the services we can provide through time, talent and treasure they provide. We had to completely reinvent how we approached fundraising and did not have a “play book” to work from to help us navigate these new waters.
I believe the best part from all of it was that our team became closer, we became creative and flexible in our approaches and continually adapted to the ever-changing restrictions and environment. I think we all grew in different ways that we never would have without the pandemic.
We are continuing to grow, learn and adapt and it will be interesting to see where this takes us moving forward. I’m grateful to the wonderful team, volunteers, board, and community we have who remain dedicated to the mission and programs of RMHC. Without them we couldn’t do what we do!
What have you enjoyed most about being a part of our chapter?
What I enjoy most about being at RMHC is the fact that we get to work in the same building as our families are staying. We get to be immersed in the programs and mission. We meet the families and become connected to them on their journey. It makes you feel good knowing that you are playing a small part in helping them on their road to healing.
Do you have a particular story about a moment with the chapter that’s especially heartwarming?
In the past 11 years, it is hard to narrow down a moment that was especially heartwarming as there are so many. But a few that stick out in my mind include a time when I was providing a new corporate partner with a tour of the House. We entered the kitchen and I was explaining the Team Cuisine program to them and how it is a great way to engage their associates. At this time a little girl (whose family I have interacted with for days) walked up and held my hand. It was this sweet moment that made us all smile. Her parents tried to get her to return to them, but she wanted to help me finish my tour. When I returned her to her parents in the kitchen the group had an opportunity to talk to learn about their journey. It really stuck with them and with me.
What do you see for the future of the chapter?
I see wonderful things on the horizon for RMHC! We are really working hard to meet the needs of the community and our partner hospitals. The growth I have seen in our organization over the past decade makes me excited to see what the next decade will bring.
When the first semester of my first year at The Ohio State University began I, like many college students, embarked on the journey of discovering what career I wanted to pursue post college. With over 200 majors offered at OSU, I had many to choose from. With a passion for design, as well as interests in mass media and visual marketing, I began to explore a communications degree and what a career would look like in this field.
Although the major of communications is pretty broad, OSU does an excellent job of narrowing it down into four undergraduate focus areas for students to choose from. After reviewing each focus area, the one that shined out among the rest was New Media and Communication Technology. This aligned with my interests in design as well as how to creatively use technology in marketing, such as social media, to grow brand awareness.
Fast forward a semester or two. I began growing a desire to see what this could look like in “the real world.” As great as the little paragraph description of a communications and visual marketing career was, I wanted to get first-hand experience to know if it would truly be the right fit for myself. Thus, began my search for an internship.
In this search I not only wanted to find a company that I could learn communication and marketing skills from, but also one where I could learn the value of developing relationships and impacting others within the community. When the opportunity to intern with Ronald McDonald House Charities presented itself, I couldn’t say no. I truly believe it is exactly what I have been looking for! I love the heart behind RMHC and their ability to impact so many families’ lives around Columbus and the world. It is truly something that I am proud to be a part of, even in the smallest way through a communication internship.
Overall, my goal for this internship is to get a better understanding of how the communications team effectively grows awareness around the RMHC brand and company. I hope to contribute to this in any way I can whether that is with writing more blog posts, helping with the behind the scenes of campaign projects, drafting emails, creating fun TikToks and other media content, or even just data entry… I am excited for it all and to be a part of the Ronald McDonald House Charities team.
My name is Kenna Scaife and I recently started as a Development Associate here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. I will be working on Paint The Town Center Red and the Dublin and Fall Handbag HULLABALOO!™ events.
When I was in High School, I was introduced to The Ronald McDonald House through a club called Club Hope. The club’s mission is to raise awareness for childhood cancer through various fundraising events and volunteering for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I loved all the work the club was doing so I decided to run for president! I was president of Club Hope for two years and throughout my time, we would make blankets, wrap Christmas presents, and serve dinner at the house. Once I was able to come to the house myself and take a tour, I knew that I wanted to work here some day!
I went to college at Ohio University. Go Bobcats! I graduated in 2019 with a degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Public and Environmental Health. After graduation, I landed a job with The Muscular Dystrophy Association. I was the lead on their event Muscle Walk and had a hand in numerous other events. I loved every moment of my job with MDA and cherish all the relationships I built with the families. My journey has now led me to the wonderful Ronald McDonald House and I am so excited to get started with planning events! I have always hoped that I would end up working here and I am so grateful the opportunity presented itself! Working in the house and seeing all the families motivates me even more to have the most successful events possible. Seeing first-hand the impact these fundraisers have on the families is incredible and I am so happy I get to be a part of that.
Recently, Sue Orme, Clinical Educator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion asked that we provide an introduction of our Ronald McDonald Family Room by way of a blog post that will be published in the BHP’s internal staff e-newsletter. Our program manager, Vicki Chappelear, wrote the following wonderful synopsis for our partners at the BHP.
Who we are: The Ronald McDonald Family Room is a program of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. The Ronald McDonald House opened in March of 1982 with 15 bedrooms as a result of passionate volunteers who had a vision to start a House in Columbus. We have now grown to 137 bedrooms. The Family Room at the BHP is the second Family Room in Columbus with the first being at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist which opened in July 2017.
What we do: Our Family Room space serves as a respite for families away from the demands of inpatient and outpatient units. We offer a quiet place to make phone calls, grab a cup of coffee, eat a snack, do laundry or even take a shower! Families can also access a beautiful, serene outdoor courtyard where they can get a breath of fresh air and sunshine. We truly understand family centered care means keeping the whole family healthy and we are doing our part to meet those needs outside of patient care.
Where we are: The Ronald McDonald Family Room is located just off the elevators on the 5th floor. We are adjacent to the west courtyard.
Why we do it:
• I think the Family Room is important because it allows families to remain close while also providing a space for family members to take time for themselves. Whether it’s getting a cup of coffee, enjoying the courtyard, or doing a load of laundry – the Family Room is a spot for families to feel relaxed and refreshed. I think family members are best able to care for and encourage their kids receiving treatment if they’re also taking care of themselves and the Family Room provides that space for that to happen. Abigail Brumme, RMCH Family Activities Manager
• Families with children at the BHP need a place to rest and disengage from the stress created by having a child with mental health issues in treatment. Darla Stover, RMCH Program Director
• “This was truly my home away from home. I felt I had a safe place every day to go to. I will never forget. I am so grateful and appreciate it so, so much. Took so much off my mind, so I could focus on (my child).” – a guest of the BHP Family Room
“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
Hi! My name is Meesha Sparrow. I went to school for Business Administration with a minor in finance. I’ve held several positions including being a receptionist for various law firms, providing mortgage services for a big bank, and even working directly with engineers in Germany for a car company. My first job was as a youth leader at a small neighborhood church when I was 14. During high school, I interned at a middle school and hospital.
I was first introduced to the Ronald McDonald House through Thirty One Gifts as a consultant. At the time, I was going through a big career change and working on understanding what I was truly passionate about. During this time, I worked on getting to know my personal core values and finding out what was important to me: honesty, compassion, gratitude, hope and children. In 2018 I became a volunteer. I was a “go getter” and would mainly clean rooms every Monday evening. I quickly discovered all the volunteers shared a lot of my main core values. I felt like I belonged.
When a position opened up for a family service manager I was thrilled. Working overnights, I get a whole different perspective than what you’d see in the day. There are many overnights I’ve witnessed parents/caregivers just needing to decompress. Being able to vent and share experiences with other families and staff like myself is so important for family members staying at the House. You can see in their faces the relief of not being alone and knowing people are here for them.
During the pandemic, I got the opportunity to work with the development team! What an amazing team. I was pleasantly surprised that not only the volunteers share my core values, but the staff too.
I never expected to get more than what I put in by being a part of the House. The Ronald McDonald House helps me be a better person. From the continuous love and support from the staff and volunteers, the families who make you feel as if you’re their family, to the kids going through so much and still effortlessly smiling at you. I’m proud and grateful to be a part of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio.
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💕