Our House is Their Home: Part 2

Our House is Their Home: Part 2

About the Series

We’re all in this together, and at the Ronald McDonald House of Cleveland we’ve made a lot of changes in order to provide comfort to families during an already-stressful time, while keeping them as safe as possible from the new threat of coronavirus. 

We have ourselves also found comfort in each other and all of the members of our Ronald McDonald House Family, near and far. For the next few weeks, we will be sharing some of the things that continue to keep our House a home, our family together, and ourselves inspired.

Delivery, Please!

Though we have had to close our kitchen to volunteers and families, it remains a hub of activity for a small group of staff who are putting a special RMH spin on room service.

This week staff at the House outdid themselves with their creation of meals that not only ensured that the families remained fed, but also brought delicious new options. Meals ranged from savory to sweet, including chicken and waffles, cheese steaks, kafta with veggies, and even a donation of pizzas from Maxi’s, our neighbors in Little Italy.

The food is excellent! My favorite so far has been the kafta!

Mahmoud Mahamid, father of Khaled, Sara and Rose

Families at the Ronald McDonald House weren’t the only ones getting fed. Family Room Coordinators Erin Goldsmith and Candice Chambers delivered snacks and Easter chocolates to help brighten the days of pediatric families and front-line staff at hospitals where our Family Rooms are located. When Erin delivered the treats, workers met her with words of sincere thanks behind teary-eyed masks, making it an extra special experience. “I was humbled by how thankful they were and appreciative they seemed,” said Erin. While our Family Rooms are still closed, the Coordinators will be making these deliveries weekly.

Fulfilling Time

During the long evenings away from home, our families normally rely on volunteers and each other for entertainment and support. People gather in the common areas and kids play with each other and the many available toys. Now that families need to remain in their private rooms and on-site volunteer activity has been suspended, some extra care has gone into helping those staying at the House feel connected.

This week greeted us with much needed, consistently nice weather. Families and their children were able to get outside, soak in the sunshine and have some fun in the gardens, at a safe distance of course! Guests are also being resourceful in finding ways to stay occupied and fend off boredom. When asked how they’re spending their time, Georgia and Christina Nixon shared “We’ve been FaceTiming with friends, watching TV, playing games and going on social media.” The Alghamdi family, who has five staying in one room, said “The time has been divided to the satisfaction of all family members. There is time for play, homework, group sports, and a time for calm and free time.” This structure and staying busy is important for families as the days can be long and uncertain.

“Other Duties as Assigned”

Without our volunteers, staff members have stepped up to fill in a variety of roles at the House. Database Manager Kristen Swinton has found comfort in helping prepare individual meals for room service delivery:

“I’ve been helping Scott in the kitchen this week and it’s been a welcomed break from my normal computer work. I have a position where I can do a lot of work remotely, but I also am fortunate enough to have few health concerns in my home and am able to come and help out at the House. With so much that is uncertain each day, it feels good to have a simple task to do, like scoop pasta salad into individual cups or wrap sandwiches. It’s given me something tangible that I can contribute to bringing some good in the midst of the crisis.

It’s strange to walk through the empty house and it’s easy to forget how many families we still have staying with us. Mostly they are spending their time in their rooms or at the hospital and are practicing good social distancing when they aren’t. I can’t imagine the stress they were all already under with whatever medical issues they were facing and now they have to worry about this on top of all of that.

It will be nice to go down to the kitchen again and see the tables full of people eating together, to see the garden volunteers back in the weeds and flowers, and to see some smiling volunteers back at the Front Desk.”

Staying Connected

We have often said that without our volunteers we simply could not do what we do for families. We never imagined that would be put to the test. And while we are managing one day at a time, we are not doing it without the continuing encouragement and support from individuals and groups alike. Our volunteers are also a source of strength and support for each other.

Fairview Family Room volunteer Emese Blankenship sews face masks with her granddaughter.

The volunteers in the Family Room at Cleveland Clinic’s Fairview Hospital work every day to provide a space of support and community for our families. With the doors of the FR temporarily closed, these inspiring people have found a way to shift their focus and now provide support and community for each other. “The Extra” is an impromptu newsletter written for and primarily by the volunteers in which they can share resources, information and even some good jokes. Contributions have included tutorials for making masks and drop-off locations, resources for virtual learning opportunities, creative ways to stay connected with loved ones on Zoom, free fitness resources, book recommendations and more. They are anxious to return to the Family Room where they can care for our guests. Until then, they’ll continue to care for each other.

Hop Hop Hopping into Easter

The Ronald McDonald House was graced with surprise Easter baskets from our friends at the Cleveland Police Foundation. The officers also provide joy and holiday cheer each year during Cops, Kids & Christmas in December, a tradition that’s nearly as old as the House itself. While this year’s Easter looks much different, the baskets were delivered to families staying at the Ronald McDonald House and provided some much needed joy and hoppy smiles!

Staying Fit and Involved

Our Board, committees, and Emerging Leaders young professionals group each provide insight, resources and connections that are invaluable to the continued operations of the Ronald McDonald House. Looking for unique ways to remain connected to the House, members of these groups have donated their time, funds and ideas to make sure families remain cared for. We are truly grateful for their steadfast support and dedication.

On April 22 at 5:30 PM, the Emerging Leaders will be hosting a donation-based, one-hour virtual yoga session via Zoom. The class is open to yogis of all levels and will include pose modifications and variations led by Registered Yoga Teacher and Emerging Leader, Kelsey Zebrowski. Participants are encouraged to care for themselves while helping families at the House! Any donation, no matter how big or small will be accepted for the class. To learn more, click here.

We Can Do This Together

The list of those who are helping us through this uncertain time is long and we are uplifted daily by the contributions of our Ronald McDonald House community. We look forward to the time when we can share face-to-face; in the meantime, here is an inspiring message we received this week:

Our son is stable right now and we pray that remains the case. I just wanted to reach out to thank you for still being there for the other families we have met and for keeping us up to date on your happenings. Please pass along our gratitude to your staff and know that you are all in our prayers!

The Murphy family, recent guests