Congratulations to Lulani Gaulberto, our new Executive Assistant here at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio. Lulani is from Pickerington and was a volunteer at the House before becoming a Volunteer Coordinator and has helped the development team on several occasions organizing auction items. Happy Administrative Professionals Day, Lulani! We did a quick Q&A with Lulani today and she was gracious to answer our questions so the community can get to know her. [Photo credit: Lulani Gaulberto/Facebook]
Q: How did you first come into the RMHC of Central OH community?
A: I started volunteering in 2017 when I was in a work transition. I chose Mondays so that I could start my week on a good note!
Q: What has been your position lately and what kinds of projects have you been working on?
A: In the past year, I’ve been a Volunteer Coordinator helping prepare & serve meals, receive donations; helped in Development by putting together Auction packages and assist with the Bake Sale; I’ve had some shifts staffing the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at the OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Big Lot’s Behavioral Health Pavilion; and I’ve worked two shifts as a Family Service Manager.
Q: Has there been a moment, since you’ve been with the House, that particularly touched you? Perhaps a moment involving one of our families or being at an event where you really felt you were part of something special?
A: I’ve had numerous moments but the most recent was when I was checking in a family from Kentucky. They had just arrived and she was very concerned about her granddaughter. She had not gotten any rest or sleep or a meal. I got her checked in and was giving her the details about the room, meals, their stay and then I told her that if she needed anything else, all she had to do was ask. I told her I would pack up dinner for her daughter and herself and gave her one of our Thirty-One Gifts welcome bags and she burst into tears. I nearly burst out crying myself but pulled it back in. I saw them a few days later when I came in to volunteer and she and her daughter looked rested and found out that the patient was doing well. How much better can it get?
Q: What are you looking forward to in your new position?
I look forward to contributing to all the House activities – raising money, fostering/planning/organizing/recognizing the amazing job that the McDonald’s restaurants are doing in their Round-Up campaign, supporting Dee Anders (our CEO) so she can do her thing, and being part of this growing chapter!
Kimberly is one of the many hardworking ‘Go-Getter’ volunteers here at Ronald McDonald House Charities. She has been volunteering at the house for a little over a year by, “doing just about whatever needs to be done,” she said. Kimberly and the other ‘Go-Getter’ volunteers help put sheets on beds, restock towels in the linen closet, do laundry, unpack boxes, clean out closets, take out trash, and anything else to help prepare rooms for families to stay in.
She first got started in volunteering at The Ronald McDonald House through a connection with her grandson, William who is currently being treated for cancer at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada. She explained that each time William has had to get treatment in Vancouver, they stay at the Ronald McDonald House and it has impacted their family greatly. However, in this past year, visiting her grandson was no longer an option due to the global pandemic. Wanting to stay connected to him, she decided to volunteer at RMHC in Columbus, Ohio. “It was very important to do something for me to feel connected to him while he was going through his treatment, so I came here for that connection.”
Kimberly shared that through her daughter, the mom of William, she has seen the weight of what it’s like to have a sick child. Her daughter’s focus has had to completely become the health and well-being of her child’s life. However, with RMHC help, some of this weight has been lifted off her shoulders and has allowed her to just be there for her child when he needs her the most. Kimberly explained that this why she continues to volunteer each week––that she is helping make families lives easier. “Everything I do here, however small, makes a family’s life easier and this is a time in their lives that they really need easy.” Kimberly hopes to continue to volunteer RMHC and help families in any way she can.
Donna Miller started a volunteer meal group from Community of Christ Church in Grove City after she was invited to come see the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus by a friend who was already volunteering at the House. That was over a decade ago and the group has continued to come, even during the pandemic, just in smaller groups instead of as a large group.This is Donna’s experience as a meal group organizer in her own words.
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!
As a volunteer for 15 years, Lisa Frabott has seen the Ronald McDonald House in Columbus more than double the number of rooms the House has provided when the chapter left its second building location for its newer third building location. When RMHC of Central Ohio moved from one location to the other, her role helping families changed with the size of the kitchens. She says the gratification she’s gotten from helping more and more families has grown with the House, as you’ll hear in the video below.
On March 3, Lisa Frabott (center) will be guest hosting our Virtual Trivia night celebrating the 39th Anniversary of Central Ohio’s chapter of Ronald McDonald House Charities. To learn more or make a reservation, click here.
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!
Congratulations to long time volunteers Fred & Jill Winer who celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on Flag Day, June 14, outside their Columbus home with a ride around the block in a carriage pulled by two Clydesdale horses. Friends and family gathered at the couple’s home to help the couple celebrate while wearing masks and social distancing. Fred wore his RMHC of Central Ohio shirt, Jeff Duffield, one of our craftsmen volunteers, also attended with his wife and provided entertainment playing his calliope. Ronald McDonald House partner Graeter’s Ice Cream Truck was there selling ice cream to all who turned out for the occasion. Graeter’s Ice Cream Truck has continued accepting donations for the Ronald McDonald House on the truck’s order-ahead page on Street Food Finder since the special occasion. The couple even set up a donation jar so those gathering from the neighborhood could make a donation to the House!
Fred says he was a chemist at Chemical Abstracts where he worked for 40 years. He says a manager at the company, Kathy Leavy, decided to leave the chemical industry and get into community service work. That’s when she got a job at the Ronald McDonald House. Soon after that, Jill was retiring having worked in elementary education, wholesale pharmaceuticals, and computer sales but wanted to stay active. Fred suggested to her that she look into volunteering at the charity where Kathy was working. That was about 14 years ago and as Fred was nearing his own retirement, he came to the House to see if he could help in 2011.
Since then, Fred has been a “jack of all trades” at the House while Jill has helped answer questions at the front desk. Fred says it’s been wonderful, especially meeting families from all over the world and from different cultures. “You count your blessings,” he says about seeing what families go through when coming to Columbus for their child’s healthcare.
The couple has 2 sons and three grandchildren. A few years ago, all of the family members joined Fred in celebrating Jill’s birthday by coming to the House and preparing a meal for the families.
Thanks, Winers, for helping the House in so many ways and, again, congratulations!
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.
It’s been a tough past four months trying to keep the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House operating. Of course, the challenges we’ve faced keeping our rooms available for our guests, pails in comparison to the real struggle our families are going through so their young patients can get the care they need. We’ve managed to keep the families that stay here relatively comfortable through the pandemic. It’s no small duty considering we usually keep the House going with hundreds of regularly scheduled volunteers and volunteer groups. Just before the pandemic struck our state, we started a 10,000-foot garden. A concept that came from volunteers with the idea that volunteer groups could tend to the garden on a regular basis. It’s not been the same at our House since we had to stop our large scale scheduling of volunteers. In addition to meal groups. fundraiser event groups, & family activity groups, we often put volunteers to work organizing and storing donations. Volunteers with groups often express how much they learn about our mission and how that new understanding gives them motivation to do more.
Several months ago, Noelle Meeker, a senior at Olentangy Liberty High School, volunteered at the House with DECA , a student organization that trains young people to be future leaders and entrepreneurs. It’s the experience she had volunteering at our House, that Meeker points to when She says she was struck by what she saw inside our House when she volunteered with a group. The experience led her to appreciate why housing families near their hospitalized children isn’t just more convenient, it’s necessary for the patient to make improvements. Meeker credits her experience at our Ronald McDonlad House in garnering the Branch Insurance Strength in Community Service Award earlier this month.
We hope, one day in the near future, to welcome large volunteer groups back to the House so more people can be touched by the experience of helping our House.
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