|The Ronald McDonald House|
After our discussion Tara and I walked back into the next room where the rest of the volunteer group remained. The group was in high spirits and laughing as they caught up and prepared for the night's events. A few minutes after I arrived back at the group Erin stated we could begin our volunteer shift by heading to the kitchen. I followed her down a short hallway and into a wide room with several tables and booths bordered by a two full kitchens that wrapped around a massive island counter top. The island was laden with fruit and slow cookers full of food that Erin explained was cooked by a volunteer group from a local business. Erin invited me to grab a quick bite to eat with her before we began our work for the night. Accompanied by a woman named Bonnie, Erin and I grabbed a light meal from the spread of food and sat down at one of the tables in the adjoining room. A moment later Bonnie joined us with a small plate of her own.
Over the next few minutes the three of us talked over our meals, discussing the volunteer history Erin and Bonnie had with the organization. The two of them explained their years or service with the organization and the surprisingly long tenure of the volunteers at the Madison Ronald McDonald House. I listened on, humbled by the commitment to the charity that the two of them shared. As we talked, tenant families at the Ronald McDonald House trickled into the kitchen and grabbed something to eat. Bonnie and Erin were quick to ensure the room remained clean and well stocked with food items as more families entered. With everything in order, Bonnie, who was already well passed the end of her volunteer shift, decided to head home for the night just as another volunteer, Vern, entered the kitchen. Like Bonnie, Vern sat down with Erin and I and talked about the Ronald McDonald House and his experience with the organization. He shared stories from his years of volunteer service and from his eventful life as he caught up with Erin and got to know me. I couldn't help but feel welcomed by the warm and caring personalities observed in those first few moments at the house. It was clear each person that volunteered was there for a reason and that heart and compassion were at the core of all their actions.
|Lunch with love!|
Before long I was surprised to find we had burned through 90 minutes of our volunteer shift. With only one hour of my shift remaining, I felt like I had accomplished a lot to help the Ronald McDonald House staff and tenants, but the entire experience had been a relaxed, team effort. After Erin announced she had to leave a little early due to a personal obligation, I told her I would stay through the end of the volunteer shift to ensure the volunteer crew covered all the needed responsibilities for that night. With roughly 45 minutes left in the volunteer shift, I did what I could to help the crew tidy up the house and take care of loose ends before we all gathered behind the reception desk one last time. For the last 15 minutes of the night we talked about what we had accomplished and shared stories about our personal experiences. Like earlier in the night, each person I learned more about shared a common thread of care and amity that ran through all of their words and actions. After three hours of house work, everyone there, myself included, clearly felt great about their contributions to helping the families of the Ronald McDonald House.
|The Ronald McDonald House Crew|
Tonight was one of those volunteer experiences that leave a lasting impact. Before today I knew the Ronald McDonald House did great things for families facing medical issues, but I was unaware of the sense of duty and dedication that each of the organization's volunteers share. There are truly amazing people that give their time and effort to the Madison Ronald McDonald House, and they do it for all the right reasons. I don't know when I will have the time to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House again, but I know I will definitely make it priority when given the chance. This is a special place that does incredible work because of truly special people. I haven't done a plug during my "I have never..." blog before, but I will say this; if you are ever looking for a great place to volunteer, give the Ronald McDonald House a try. I promise you won't regret it.