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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ronald McDonald House is Not What You Think

Recently I visited the Nashville Ronald McDonald House, along with Tami Heim and Dawn Stanton, to tour their facility and receive their thanks for last year's sponsorship of their telethon. What I found there surprised me.

Most of us think that McDonalds supports Ronald McDonald House via the coin boxes under their drive-in windows and probably some corporate help since the houses bear the corporation's name. Actually, that's not at all the case.

For the naming rights to the RMH facilities, McDonalds leverages their vendor relationships to get free or drastically reduced cost materials and equipment to open each house. That does not even begin to cover the capital expense of opening a house, but it certainly helps. McDonalds also passes along customer generosity from their coin drops, but again that doesn't even cover a fraction of each house's operating expenses. Each RMH is a free standing, self-funded charitable entity that relies on financial support and volunteer staffing to perform their merciful and sometimes miraculous work.

The Nashville RMH has some paid staff, but the majority of those who help are volunteers. They accept volunteers to cook meals in their kitchens or to cater-in meals for the families of children being treated for cancer in local hospitals, mostly Vanderbilt. The employees of Dollar General purchase the majority of their laundry supplies for their extensive basement Laundromat. Financial support is needed to keep the 32 bed facility open year-round for the parents, grandparents, and siblings of critically ill children.

RMH's 2006 Calls for Kids Telecast is in March, but Myra Yeatman and her team in Nashville are always in need of volunteers. Some of these parents are very young couples growing up fast while dealing with one of the worst situations a family can face. Some these siblings have essentially lost their parents while they devote full time and effort to helping one of their other children fight cancer. If you're looking for a cause and a place to spend your time, there's a lot of money going to causes and organizations that pale by comparison in the good that they do for families and our society. RHM in Nashville is at 2144 Fairfax Ave. and can be reached by phone at (615) 343-4000.


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