Serving Up Hope and Dreams

Serving Up Hope and Dreams

group of children and adults with leis and doing limbo

Limbo fun at the 2020 luau

“The Luau Party right before COVID started was really special,” Family Meal Program Coordinator Lauren Minotas shares when asked about her favorite moments at the Cleveland Ronald McDonald House.

Why that one? The answer is in Lauren’s story. It’s part of why she works part-time for RMHC Northeast Ohio and supports the organization in any way she can, including through her position as a general manager with Jersey Mike’s.

Woman with three children posing in pajamas

Pajama Party Fun!

“I don’t usually share my story,” Lauren admits. She doesn’t like the spotlight, doesn’t like to be in photos, but is the first one to step up and take pictures of joyful moments at the House.

Lauren agreed to tell her story because “maybe it will make a difference.”

old mansion converted to RMH

The first Pittsburgh Ronald McDonald House

“While I was in high school, I was sick and was in the hospital in Pittsburgh. That’s when Ronald McDonald House became a part of my life.”

Lauren’s treatment progressed from inpatient to an outpatient day program for a couple of months. Her “home” during that time was the Ronald McDonald House. “It was more than just staying there. They did so much ‘extra’ for us. But at first, I mostly just stayed in my room. I was miserable and pretty shy.”

Lauren’s experience began to change when she ventured out into the community area one evening for a special activity, a magic show. “When I went through a living room area, I noticed a younger child and began playing with him.”

I started getting to know more families and enjoy being out of the room, feeling a part of the place. I remember that feeling.

Three women walkers posing with Ronald McDonald clown in rain

Lauren and friends pose with Ronald McDonald in 2008 Charity Walk

After graduating, Lauren went away to college in Rhode Island where she began working at Jersey Mike’s. She became interested in learning more about food preparation and nutrition, so followed that academic path in college. “I earned an associate degree in pastry and a bachelor’s in culinary nutrition.”

Lauren’s personal experiences spurred her to accept a dietary technician role at Hasbro Children’s Hospital across the street from a Ronald McDonald House. She even did a charity walk to raise funds for the House.

“When I moved back to Cleveland, I wanted to volunteer to give back. Ronald McDonald House seemed the natural fit, but I was terrified of driving ‘downtown.’ So, I volunteered at other places closer to home, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Finally, I braced the drive, and it wasn’t so bad. Six years ago, I applied to be a volunteer.”  During this time her career continued to progress with Jersey Mike’s as well. She now manages three locations.

woman in blue and black with name tag and award

2018 Volunteer of Merit

Lauren’s volunteer activity began, naturally, in the kitchen. She earned a Volunteer of Merit award in 2018, began taking more shifts, and eventually accepted a position as a Group Partnership Assistant.

Lauren has been the driving force and coordinator behind many of the fun family activities, from Penguin Pajama Parties to Sunflower Celebrations to themed meal parties—like the 2020 luau.

woman and child pose wearing Hawaiian leis on

Lauren and Khaled at the 2020 Luau

“Khaled, a repeat guest at the House, was soooo excited for the Luau! Unfortunately, he had just gone inpatient again, but was given a day pass to come to it with the rest of his family. The House was full and it was so much fun. It was the last party before we had to start all the COVID restrictions.”

Providing a sense of normalcy, community, and moments of joy during a stressful time is a vital goal of RMHC programs. Bonds made during creative activities and special meals help to inspire hope.

Lauren remembers that feeling—she has made it her mission to help other families and kids feel it too.

Working here during COVID, these families became my second family. They inspired me, and I wanted to help give them joy and hope.``

child facing table with Wish Hope Dream Jar full of colorful folded papers

Isla Vagi writes a wish

“The Wish Jar is probably the one thing I’m most proud of,” says Lauren. “I was inspired by Khaled and all of his crazy wishes and dreams we used to talk about. And then when the House activities were shut down for COVID, it was one of the few places families were still able to express themselves.”

Three individuals preparing a meal in kitchen

Lauren leads Jersey Mike’s volunteers in meal prep

When the new kitchen opened, Lauren was offered her current role as Family Meal Program Coordinator.

“I’m able to do this and my Jersey Mike’s work and bring them together. My teams frequently come to make meals.”

Lauren’s stores have chosen to support RMHC Northeast Ohio during their March Month and Day of Giving in 2021 and 2023., raising more than $30,000 each year. Her passion caught on in the network, with her story inspiring the adoption of RMHC NEO as the sole charity supported by all of Jersey Mike’s in NEO this year.

Jersey Mike's store employee with day of giving shirt

Lauren, Jersey Mike’s 2023 Day of Giving

“This is HUGE,” exclaims Lauren. “Customers can make donations at the register any time throughout March. With 100% of all sales from all NEO stores on March 27 being donated, it could add up to $250,000 or more to support families.”

Families pay nothing to stay at our Ronald McDonald House programs, thanks to the generosity of donors. It costs about $150 per night to operate, however.

$250,000 from the Jersey Mike’s Month of Giving could support nearly 1,700 nights of rest and comfort for families.

Imagine the difference it could make. And how many special moments Lauren can help create for families facing the most difficult journeys of their lives.

You can play a part just by buying your lunch or dinner at one of 39 Jersey Mike’s locations in NEO on March 27.

text filled document with info on March 27 Jersey Mike's Day of Giving