Summer means no school, trips to the beach and lots of splashing in the pool. But there are other ways to create a memorable summer. One is by helping out at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama is a nonprofit organization in Birmingham that works to ensure that families of a sick or injured child will never face their challenges alone. Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama helps to lift the burden of having a sick child and provides support through unique programs including Ronald McDonald House, Ronald McDonald Family Room and the Happy Wheels Cart.
Only a couple of other charities provide much-needed help with temporary housing, but Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama sets itself apart by its scale and robust in-house programming. In Birmingham, the Ronald McDonald House of Alabama recently expanded to more than 60,000 square feet including 73 guest suites.
With the help of amazing volunteers and donors providing meals, snacks, family activities, life skill classes and tickets to fun events, families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House are able to focus their attention and finances on what matters most – their child.
Deciding to become a volunteer takes a special and selfless person, one who is willing to take time out of their busy schedules to help give back to the community. Hayden Krauss is one such person. Krauss is currently a student at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), majoring in healthcare management and has also been a volunteer at Ronald McDonald House Charities for the past three months.
“My family has been in a similar situation that a lot of families at Ronald McDonald House of Alabama find themselves in. I wanted to volunteer in an area where I knew I could make a meaningful impact. Because my family has been in this situation, I figured it would only add value to the overall experience, and would allow me to make more meaningful contributions in my volunteer work.”
Krauss’ volunteer role at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama is Operations Assistant, where he works alongside Facility Manager Jerrod Thomas.
“My work varies each day I volunteer. As an Operations Assistant, work can vary from fixing doors and building highchairs to helping solve issues with a room.”
For Krauss, it’s not the projects that he considers to be the most memorable aspect of volunteering, but rather interacting with the families who utilize Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama services.
“It’s abundantly clear how grateful these families are of the work that is done by both staff and volunteers, and it’s nice to be a part of these families stories.”
Krauss plans to continue volunteering with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama throughout 2018.
“For anyone to give their time to help others shows character, and at the end of the day it feels good knowing you helped others,” said Krauss. “I’m a member of the community, and I think it’s important to give back to the community in some way.
It doesn’t matter where or how long, volunteering in some capacity is a good way to help the people within the community, which in turn helps the community as a whole. I typically volunteer for two hours on Monday mornings, which isn’t a lot compared to others, but my efforts still go a long way within the house.
Just think of what could be accomplished if everyone volunteered for one hour a week.”
In 2017, 551 volunteers donated 9,879 hours of their time, making meals, hosting family activities, and more in service to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama. These incredible efforts saved Ronald McDonald House Charities $238,492.38! This allowed Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama to focus on other important tasks like family programming, supplementing the pantry for meal planning and more.
Providing meals is another important and truly significant way for volunteers to help the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Alabama. Erica Murphy served as a member of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama Junior Board for four years. She was also the VP of House Events.
“I was initially introduced to Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama through my college sorority, Alpha Delta Pi at the University of Alabama,” said Murphy. “After moving to Birmingham post-graduation, I had a desire to give back to the community and found the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama Junior Board to be a natural fit.”
Murphy has been able to continue her partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama through her employer, IBERIABANK. In fact, some of the associates from various branches of the company formed a run team in the Red Shoe Run, and later explored other opportunities to give back to Ronald McDonald House Charities, including serving meals to the families.
“As a young professional, I have learned how important it is for businesses to give back to the communities we serve,” said Murphy. “Not only are we impacting people’s lives, but it also serves as a way to network with other philanthropic individuals in the business community.
At IBERIABANK, we put great emphasis on associates using their talents to give back to those in the community. Serving Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama is a great way to do just that.”
“We could not serve families on the scale that we do without our amazing, talented volunteers and we are so grateful to each and every one of them,” said Katherine Estes Billmeier, CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama.
“They give their time to keep our Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama welcoming and tidy, make sure there’s always a home-cooked meal for dinner and ensure that our signature events are successful. But more importantly, they help provide emotional support for guest families. A smile, a warm word can make all the difference to a parent facing the challenges of a sick or injured child.”