Office of Volunteerism serves up tacos at the Ronald McDonald House

Student volunteers prepare dinner in The Ronald Mcdonald House kitchen. - Contributor / Shane Bagot

On October 13, The Ronald Mcdonald house of South Jersey had volunteers from Rowan’s Office of Volunteerism come cook dinner for families staying. On the menu for the night was tacos with a choice of pink lemonade or iced tea to wash it down with. Big portions of each ingredient were placed out for the families to enjoy. While the attendance was rather low, it does not take away from the great work being done at the house or from the volunteers. 

While the Mcdonald name is well known, few may know about the houses and how they operate. Relationship Manager, Dorothy Luca, spoke and briefed the volunteers on what goes on at the house.

The Ronald McDonald House is a place for families of ill children to stay while their children receive the care needed from hospitals in the area. This allows for an easier and more comfortable time for families who may have to constantly be on the move. The Camden house specifically helps with hospitals like Cooper, Virtua, and CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). Additionally, this is not the only one in the area as there is a Philadelphia house that has 100 bedrooms to Camden’s 25. 

A tour of the house helped to get a better picture of the operation going on. When walking in and looking to your left, you’re greeted to a media room with reclining chairs, tv, and a game console. Then there is a whole kitchen area with pantries assigned for each family and community fridges. Near the kitchen is the dining area and a sort of living room with huge space for people to have alone time or interact with each other. There is a little upstairs area with a gym and study area for kids to work in.

The rooms where families stay an the upper levels are customized with themes for the kids. Little lounge areas with all different themes as well. There are even play areas all designed differently on each floor. One specifically had been designed in honor of a child who had stayed there but passed away. “Johnny’s Clubhouse ” was donated by a family who had spent a stay at the house. Most of the items at the house are donated from families or sponsors. 

“I have the best job ever right. We’re helping people, this is my favorite charity. One thing I love about this place is if a donor donates a TV… they’re gonna find that TV on the wall,” said Luca

No one donation sent to the Ronald McDonald house goes to waste according to Luca. There is even a special designed closet that keeps all the toys and games for the kids to play with. She went on to highlight the value of being able to see the kids grow up as they come back every so often. 

Every night a different volunteer group comes in to prepare dinner for the families, also going out and buying all the ingredients for the meal. Volunteers even come in to help as drivers, answering phones and doors. Workers at the house appreciate the help coming in. Luca pointed out that volunteers being able to share their time and give these families a home cooked meal after a long day is something that is really valued at the Mcdonald house. 

“We wouldn’t survive without the help of our volunteers. We appreciate all the time they come to help us,” said Luca.

Behind the meal preparation was The Offices of Volunteerism. Speaking with Yatra Patel, who is a Junior and 2 months in the program gave insight on the overview of what the operation is. It as a program that tries to reach out to students for opportunities to volunteer at various events. They were successful for this event as they had 3 first time volunteers helping out with dinner.

Jackson Schaffer, a sophomore, who was exposed to the offices through a presentation, expressed the good feeling achieved through helping other people out. Patel in similar spirits voiced the privilege of just being able to interact with the children as a heartwarming experience. 

This is not always the case as they have issues getting students to want to volunteer. There is a lack of help when it comes to volunteering. While they strive for 5-6 students every outreach, it is more of 2-3 that is the realistic turn out according to Patel. Patel also pointed to students not utilizing the services of the proflink.

“No, I think it’s a little disappointing. I think that everyone in society needs to give back a little bit because the more you give back, the more somebody’s gonna give back to you whenever you’re in need,” said first time volunteer Schaffer. 

The good news is that you can also get involved with the offices of Volunteerism and the Ronald McDonald house. The house has its own website where they have opportunities for people to sign up to work events. In addition you can reach out to the Office of Volunteerism through their email or social media @rowan_volunteer.