Thanksgiving of last year, I wrote about volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries and wanting to make volunteering a priority in my life. To date, I’ve been pretty terrible at making volunteering a priority. Fortunately Steph over at Orangespoken invites me to volunteer opportunities and reminds me of my commitment to integrate volunteering into my life.
Today I joined Steph’s group and helped cook for families staying at the Tampa Ronald McDonald House (RMDH). This great organization offers a free place to stay for people who have sick children at Tampa General Hospital. Stays can last anywhere from one day to almost a year (Tampa’s longest stay). Those who stay are visiting child patients who suffer from a variety of illnesses and injuries.
Heather, the weekend Manager of RMDH was kind enough to give us a tour. The Tampa RMDH has 14 rooms, each able to sleep four people. Heather kept saying, “It’s nothing fancy.” Certainly it’s not the Ritz, but it’s not meant to be nor does it have to be. The rooms were similar to many mid-price hotels I’ve stayed in, but cozier. Everything was bright and clean. Guests are greeted by gifts of donated quilts and toys upon entry to their room. There are no TVs in the rooms, but there are social areas throughout the compound that encourage the guests to interact with others staying at RMDH. There’s a lovely patio to sit and rest, and a lovely yard. There’s a kitchen and dining area, and RMDH provides one hot meal a day to its guests. Guests are encouraged to visit with their patient as much as possible and practical, but RMDH gives the guests a reprieve from the sterile, hospital atmosphere.
Heather said that many of the positions at RMDH are volunteer positions. She admitted that she did receive pay for her position as weekend Manager. In this position she works a straight 48 hours from Friday night until Sunday night, where she is on call the entire time. She said she receives approximately $4/hour for this job. Somewhat obviously, she works a separate full-time job, and she also goes to school. Yet she volunteers for RMDH and other organizations around Tampa Bay during other times. Her explanation for why she volunteers is, “You never know when you are going to need the service. You’d want someone there for you if you needed it.” In fact, she shared that some of her family members had stayed at RMDH in the past. She’s paying it back by paying it forward. I’m certainly glad that Heather is there to help those who need it, and I found her story to be inspiring.
After the tour, we finished up with cooking. Meatloaf, roasted carrots with (with garlic, thyme, and parsley – I chopped the parsley! ), biscuits, and chocolate cake were on the menu. I only knew two of the people there, so it was a great opportunity to meet some awesome, new folks. We, the volunteers, provided all of the groceries to make the meal. There are 10 families currently staying at RMDH, and we were cooking for ~20 people. (I realized that I hadn’t eaten a big enough lunch partway through cooking, because my stomach started to rumble as the delicious smells began to reach my nose… ) It’s nice to know that families that are stressed out from having a sick child in the hospital won’t have to worry about making dinner tonight…
I’m really glad that I took a few hours out of my Sunday and volunteered at RMDH. It’s a great organization that runs primarily off of donations (Ever drop change into one of those bins at McDonald’s? This is where it goes.) and volunteers. Want to get involved? Even if you can’t donate your time, you could donate needed goods from RMDH’s needs list.
There are so many ways to get involved with various local organizations. The toys that RMDH gives to families were made and donated by locals. As were the quilts and other goodies.
I want to reemphasize my commitment to make volunteering a priority in my life. I think it’s incredibly important for all of us to give back to our communities. Volunteering with a group is a great way to give back that is fun, rewarding, and challenging. After all, making new friends isn’t always easy!
I might fall off the volunteering horse again, but I hope that I won’t. And I hope that you’ll join me in this challenge!! Give back to your community however you can. We’re all in this together, and though one person can make a difference we can do so much more together!