Serving Up Service at Ronald McDonald House Charities
The smell of fudgy chocolate brownies fills the Family Kitchen of the Ronald McDonald House in Lubbock, Texas, mixing with the voices of volunteers and chiming of spoons in pots on the stove. Crockpots rest along a stretch of counter space waiting to be filled with warm chili, golden macaroni and cheese, and hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. The volunteers from Parkhill, Smith & Cooper in bright blue t-shirts and a joining family of volunteers bustle around the kitchen’s island organizing buns, chips, toppings and condiments and stirring pots on the stove. The three large counters and the kitchen’s island are covered with colorful packaging, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables and trays waiting to be filled with the gooey chocolate desserts baking in the oven. According to Elise Rascoe, house manager at Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Southwest (RMHC Southwest), 40 people would be served in the Family Kitchen where the warm meal was prepared by the volunteers.
Parkhill, Smith & Cooper has served RMHC Southwest through professional services but also through grants and volunteer work. Todd Hardin, associate AIA in PSC’s Higher Education Sector, said that he has been volunteering at RMHC Southwest since 2013 through the Guest Chefs and Freezer Friends programs that prepare meals for families staying at the house while their children are receiving medical care. In 2015, PSC started the Community Investment initiative, and Todd submitted a grant application for new linens and bedding for the house accommodations as well as for utensils and cookware in the Family Kitchen. RMHC Southwest was awarded $16,000 in grant funds for this project. A portion of the 2016 grant funds was used to sponsor 17 total family rooms between Covenant Women’s and Children’s, and Covenant Hospital Lakeside Campus.
“Too often we get caught up in the business of what we do and lose sight of what we are doing it for and the personal investment we have in it,” Hardin said. “On occasion it is warranted to remind ourselves of this by taking the time to give back humbly and genuinely in a thankful manner without any expectations. I believe that speaks volumes about a person, about PSC and about the dedication of our leadership to see the importance of investing back into the community without expectation and our staff’s commitment to understand the importance of that vision.”
Elise meets a group of volunteers in the foyer for a tour of the facilities. She points out the Family Kitchen that was renovated and enlarged with a Community Investment grant and Pro Bono design services donated in 2016. The crowd shuffles past donation boxes filled with travel-sized toiletries. Elise said the goal is to provide as much as possible for families staying at the house and help them to feel as comfortable during their stay.
A tree mural leafed with the names of business donors and black-and-white photos of children decorate the walls. Elise leads the volunteers outside into the Hopeful Healing Hearts Garden where families can go to relax, reflect and mourn the loss of children. Jax, a 3-year-old yellow lab who serves as a therapy dog, joins the tour with numerous tail wags and welcomes the volunteers’ ear scratches, belly rubs and head pats. The group returns inside, and the next stop is a common room with a television, shelves of board games and couches that doubles as a meeting space for the RMHC staff. PSC awarded $15,000 through a 2017 Community Investment grant for conference room and office additions and renovations. Pro Bono designs services for the needs of the growing staff were also donated.
The crowd of volunteers took stairs up to the second floor, and Elise and Jax stepped out of the elevator to continue the tour. The second floor at RMHC Southwest is where the families stay in guest rooms while their children are receiving treatment at Covenant hospitals. Elise said families with babies in Neonatal Intensive Care, with children in cancer treatment, and with children in intensive care due to car accidents or burns have stayed at RMHC Southwest. The ages of those patients range from newborns to 21 years.
As she jingled the key into the lock of the largest bedroom that houses ten people, she told stories of the families that had stayed at the house. She said that the 17 rooms that allow between 2 and 10 people often stay at full capacity, and some families have to be put on a waiting list. After answering any additional questions about how else volunteers could help and questions about the families, the group returned to the Family Kitchen to finish dinner preparations.
“After receiving a tour of the RMH we gain a better understanding of why they exist, who they serve and how we fit into that puzzle,” said Jennifer Williams, human resources director at PSC.
Jennifer was one of the PSC volunteers that helped prepare the meal at RMHC Southwest. She said that PSC typically finds opportunities to volunteer through an employee who sees an opportunity for volunteer work or from an organization that has heard about PSC’s Community Investment initiative and reaches out for assistance.
Elise said that volunteers have a significant role in the house. She said they help keep the house clean for the families in addition to providing a meal or sometimes multiple meals in a day. People also volunteer in the front office, so the staff can leave the office to interact with families.
“We love our volunteers,” Elise said. “We have some the best volunteers. They are willing to do whatever is needed to help our families and our mission. From the littlest things like baking cookies to the big things like providing a meal. They really help us in being able to fully support our families.”
After volunteering at the RMHC Southwest, Jennifer said that several employees have asked to be notified when PSC will be volunteering with the house again. Current employees also encourage their families to be involved and inspire other businesses in the community to volunteer as well. Enterprise, a company that PSC regularly rents vehicles from, asked to join the Community Investment initiative and volunteered with PSC at RMHC Southwest.
“PSC is one of many companies with talents that our communities need to improve,” Jennifer said. “I feel like we have thrown the gauntlet down to challenge other local firms to see those needs and to be intentional to meet them. Yes, it is very easy and tempting to get self-involved and only be concerned with those issues that affect our bottom line, but the problems of our communities do affect ability to attract outside professionals to our area.”
Todd said that volunteering is a time investment and that is one reason why people choose not to volunteer. He said that was once a reason holding him back.
“But the personal satisfaction I found in volunteering far outweighed the cost,” he said. “It is a personal commitment and investment in one’s self to grow, to serve and to give back. What I have found in volunteering is it opened my eyes to how fortunate I am when seeing the challenges and struggles other families and their children are facing.”