Ronald McDonald House Isn’t Just 11/6/17 11/28/17 4:18:14 PM
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Administrators join little clients in turning that first spade of dirt for the expansion.
Ronald McDonald House
Isn’t Just Clowning Around
By Julien R. Fielding
The Daily Record
The Ronald McDonald House at 620 S. 38th Street is growing by 100 percent.
In September, it broke ground on an expansion that will add 20,000 square feet to its already 18,000-square-foot facility and will help them serve 20 more families.
“This is the largest build in the history of the Ronald McDonald House in Omaha,” said Lindsey Rai Reasner, executive director. “We are at full capacity, and have families on a waiting list. Last year, we turned away 800 families, and no one wants that on their shoulders.”
Knowing that they needed more space, Reasner, in 2015, began researching how to expand their facility. “I had never done anything like this before,” she said. “My background isn’t in non-profits, but I’m so committed to providing the much needed services these families require that wild horses couldn’t pull me away.”
During the process, she connected with several professional partners. “I called every expert I knew for guidance,” she said.
Because of construction, Reasner needed to find someplace for the families to live during the summer months; that’s where the University of Nebraska at Omaha came in. They will open their dorms to families between May and August. “We were fortunate that we have a lot of people in Omaha working as a team,” she said. “Every part of this project is collaborative.”
Ronco Construction Company is doing the work, which is estimated to take 18 months. For the project to move forward, they had to raise 80 percent of the projected $10.3 million. They still have about $500,000 left to raise.
When finished, the facility will offer 40 families a place to stay while their children are receiving medical treatment.
“All of the families come to Omaha to receive medical treatment that isn’t available in their home towns,” she explained. “That’s where we come in. Our largest population is seeking treatment at UNMC, but we are available for pediatric patients at any hospital or clinic who need us. They are referred to us by social workers or medical staff members at Omaha area hospitals. We try to accommodate everyone.”
Each family has a private room, which includes a bathroom. (Toiletries are provided.) The house includes a large kitchen, several television rooms, a laundry room, a computer room, a linen closet and a playground. Volunteers prepare dinner nearly every night and provide a support system. Families also have 24-hour access to the House pantry, which is stocked with canned goods, breakfast items and other non-perishable food items, all of which are donated by the community.
“If the families come here during the winter, and don’t have coats or hats, we can get those for them, too,” she added.
The majority of the families who stay at the Ronald McDonald House have children who are experiencing issues with their small bowel, she said, and there is a surgeon in the transplant department, Dr. David F. Mercer, at UNMC, who is world renowned for his techniques. People “come from all over the world” to see him, she said. The second largest group has a baby in the NICU.
Those staying at the Ronald McDonald House are limited to 15 months, but if the family needs to stay longer, Reasner said they would take it to the Board. It costs about $120 a day to operate each of the guest rooms, so families are encouraged to make a $15 donation per day, if they are able, but most can’t afford that, she said. “We can’t offer direct financial services, so we have partnered with Angels Among Us. They will be sharing the building with us,” she said. “We also aren’t in the business of providing health care, but we will have an in-house treatment space operated by Nebraska Medicine.” (Ronald McDonald House leases its land from UNMC.)
The Ronald McDonald House has an operating budget of a little more than $1 million per year.
“We are funded like any non-profit,” she said. “We rely on the philanthropic energy of the community. We have different events, too, that help us raise money. All of that money raised – all food donated – stays right here. We have been blown away by the number of individuals and foundations that donate year after year. Omaha is a phenomenally giving place.”
To find out how to donate or volunteer, go to www.rmhcomaha.org, call 402-346-9377, or send an email to email@example.com. The Ronald McDonald House can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
Local Legal Association Collects Tabs
In 2014, OLPA received its plaque for becoming a “Thanks a Million Tab Club” member. Tina Moulton from Ronald McDonald is on the left and Bonnie Kudron, then-president on behalf of OLPA, is on the right.
The Omaha Legal Professionals Association (OLPA) began collecting pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House in April 2008 with a donation of 61 pounds/91,500 tabs. It took the organization five years to reach the 1,000,000-tab mark and become a member of the “Thanks a Million Tab Club.”
OLPA received a plaque from the Ronald McDonald House at its 2014 Annual Awards and Boss Appreciation Banquet. “Even though we reached our goal, many members wanted to continue contributing towards the pop tab project and so it continued, longtime OLPA board member Bonnie Kudron said.
In 2015, OLPA’s community service project was discussed with members of its state counterpart, NLPA (Nebraska Legal Professionals Association). That year, it was decided at NLPA’s Annual Meeting and Convention to turn the pop tab project into a statewide community service project.
“As of today, NLPA has contributed 437,250 tabs towards its goal of also becoming a member of the ‘Thanks a Million Tab Club,’” OLPA President Lynda Henningsen said. “With everyone’s assistance from across the state, we hope to achieve our goal within a couple of years.”
The tabs, when recycled, earn money that helps cover operational costs at the Ronald McDonald House. About 35 million pop tabs were recycled in Omaha last year, which paid their electric bill each month.