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Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte: Providing A Home Away From Home for Families in Crisis

By Rebecca Gaunt

The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia in 1974. Today, the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte is one of 349 houses in 60 countries with a mission to help families through times of crisis. Families that seek treatment for their sick or seriously injured children can stay at the House for a small donation, or for free if they are unable to pay. Here they can find a homey atmosphere with home-cooked meals.

The Charlotte House has 35,000 square feet of living space, 28 rooms, a community kitchen, sitting porch, computer room, and playground. Because entire families are often away from home for an extended period of time, volunteers work hard to make it a great experience for every family member. They offer family meals, sibling and family activities, and holiday and birthday celebrations.

Director of Development and Communications Manager Laura-Nelle Hurst says, "When a child gets a serious diagnosis, the only thought is to get the child to the best doctor and hospital possible. But sometimes when that hospital is far away from home, families have nowhere to turn to stay close to their sick child. Our House provides a safe, affordable and caring 'home away from home' for these families."

The Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte could not do what they do without the help of the community. Volunteers handle daily house operations from household tasks to the nightly dinners. Individuals, organizations, and corporations donate money and time, give grants, and sponsor events.

"We love volunteers!" says Hurst. "Volunteers are the lifeblood the House: they check families in, turn rooms over to prepare for guest arrivals, prepare meals in the industrial kitchen, bake cookies, clean the House from top to bottom, answer the phone at the front desk and provide a loving environment for the families."

The Charlotte House partners with two hospitals, Levine Children's Hospital and Novant Health Hemby Children's Hospital, for their family-centered care approach that allows all members of the family to be involved in the recovery process. Room requests are made through the hospital by the patient's healthcare provider or a social worker.

We asked Hurst how she got involved in the Ronald McDonald House. "We always say that our community makes our House a home," she answers. "I wanted to be able to help the families of critically ill children in any small way that I can; in essence, be a good neighbor to families in need." Providing lodging for families is only one component of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Carolina; it also provides community grants in the areas of healthcare, education and social service. Recent recipients include the Boys & Girls Club of Durham, the Hickory Soup Kitchen of Hickory, and Autism Society of Cumberland.

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About The Author

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a...

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