Josie, Lily and I delivered handmade snack bags to the Ronald McDonald House of Southern New Jersey on Tuesday and took a tour of the facility with Sonia, the operations manager. It was a trip that I had in the works for weeks, but the late winter sickies hit our house and caused a significant delay in our visit. I am so glad that Sonia did not give up on us because it was a spectacular visit!
As you may know, I have been struggling to find volunteer opportunities that are age appropriate and interesting for Josie. For this one, I decided to make our kitchen Volunteer Central. About a month ago, I reached out to the RMHC about launching a breakfast or snack bag project. The idea was that Josie and I would decorate paper lunch bags and pack them with healthy snacks to deliver to the house on a somewhat regular basis. It was not clear if there was a need for this after perusing the website, but my email got results! Sonia wrote back and was enthusiastic about it saying that they could be used for families to grab on the way out of the house in the morning or to be used in the RMH family rooms located in hospitals throughout southern New Jersey. Victory! I had finally found a project we could do as a family.
The making of the bags was a blast and Lily actually got involved too! We used dot paint and tissue paper to decorate brown paper lunch bags we purchased at the dollar store. This is really a chance to be creative – use whatever craft supplies you have in the house, let the kids get a little messy and make those boring bags beautiful! To fill the bags, we made some homemade trail mix and picked up a big box of cereal bars at a warehouse store. The trail mix was a fun, easy recipe for the girls to make and, yes, we ate a little bit too!
On Tuesday, we packed everything and everybody up in the car (which only took about 45 minutes with a toddler and preschooler) and headed out to the Ronald McDonald House. What a wonderful and welcoming place! We were greeted by Sonia who immediately made Josie feel at ease and really engaged her in the tour of the house. All of the rooms have a different theme and Josie chose to visit the Firehouse Room, which came complete with a fire truck toddler bed and a fireman’s pole! The house has a large kitchen and dining room, which is necessary since they have 21 rooms and can house about 80 residents at a time. Sonia told me that on average, families are there for about 3 months at a time and seeing her interact with the families, it is clear that the staff becomes close with all of the residents. Josie and Lily’s favorite part were the playrooms of course!
I really must thank Sonia for a wonderful visit and all of the staff members and volunteers who make the Ronald McDonald House a warm, inviting place for families to stay while their children are receiving medical treatment at local hospitals. I’ve always had a great appreciation for this charity and it is just 100 times greater now. We will continue to make our snack bags until we are able to fulfill other volunteer roles for the house, but there is no doubt that we will continue to build a volunteer relationship with RHMC. There are so many ways to get involved with them and you can learn about all of the ways to donate and volunteer on their website. If you are looking for a Ronald McDonald House in your neck of the woods, click here.