A home-cooked meal can provide comfort to anyone facing a stressful situation. For a family with a seriously ill child, it can be a lifesaver. As the Director of Marketing & Communications at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, I have seen how a good home-cooked meal can light up the faces of these families during difficult times.
Families come to Philadelphia from all over the world seeking the best possible health care for their children. That means leaving their home, jobs, and loved ones behind and traveling to an unfamiliar city. The financial and emotional burden can be severe, but families who stay at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House will find comfortable beds, transportation to and from local children’s hospitals, and a host of much-needed services to help them throughout their stay.
The Guest Chef Program: Serving Smiles Through Meals
Our Guest Chef Program provides meals cooked every night by friendly volunteer groups, including the Blue Crew. But these are more than just meals — volunteers are serving comfort, hope, and nourishment for these families. This program allows families to focus on their children’s health and not on what they will eat or how they will pay for it.
“If we had not been able to stay at the House, we would have had to stay at a hotel, and I can’t imagine how we would have paid for it,” said Jessica Everett, a former guest. “My husband had to take a leave from work, and I really don’t know what we would have done. The House provides everything and you never have to worry about forgetting something. It’s so helpful to be close together and close to the hospital.”
Meals That Warm Your Heart
IBX Blue Crew volunteers visit the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald Houses at both the Chestnut Street and Front & Erie locations once a month to prepare and serve delicious and nutritious meals for the families staying there. From lasagna to Taco Tuesdays, volunteers thoughtfully craft menus that make families feel at home. The hope and relief provided by the meals are palpable when speaking to guest families.
“It’s heartwarming to see the groups come in to provide the food and cook,” said Courtney Dore, a former guest. “These volunteers are truly dedicated to helping. They come in early and they bring everything in. Once they are ready, they serve the meals to the families and even clean up afterwards. We don’t have to worry about anything.”
Amy Diziki, another former guest, added, “All the meals were wonderful. Nothing to cook or clean up. It’s a huge weight lifted off from you.”
“Dedicated volunteers, like the Blue Crew, are vital to the success of this program. Without their generosity, we wouldn’t be able to continue to offer it,” said Chris Callanan, Director of Events and Corporate Development at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. “Having these home-cooked meals available each night is one less thing these families have to worry about, and that makes a huge difference in their day.”
Making Room for More Families
As local hospitals continue to grow, so does the demand for the services of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House. Due to a lack of space, the organization is currently forced to turn away four out of five families on their first request to stay. That’s why a new tower is under construction at the Chestnut Street location, which will allow staff and volunteers to welcome more than twice as many families!
The first phase of the project will be completed in May 2019, and members of the Blue Crew have already been hard at work unpacking and assembling furniture to get the tower ready.
“We want to be sure we are contributing to making the tower a ‘home’ for the families who visit,” said Carol Dunleavy, IBX Blue Crew volunteer. “Even the smallest gestures make a difference, so we hope our small gestures of help can add up to a big change for the House and the families it serves!”
The entire Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House staff thanks the Blue Crew and all the groups and individuals who support its mission of helping families of seriously ill children by providing a community of comfort and hope. All of their hard work truly helps families when they need it most.