January 27, 2014
It's almost time for Charlottesville's Ronald McDonald House to reopen its doors after getting some much needed TLC for the last seven months..
Just steps from the UVa Medical Center, the house is a home away from home for countless families of kids seeking treatment.
"When a child is sick and you've taken them to a place that's away from your home, this provides you with an opportunity to stay together," said executive director Rita Ralston.
A $1.2 million renovation project that began in July has forced the organization to temporarily move its operation from its 9th Street location. The four-story home has been there for 23 years. In 2013, more than 800 families used its services.
"With 18 families a night, 365 days a year, it takes a lot of use and abuse and things were just coming to the end of their natural life," said Ralston.
Construction crews have been tearing down walls, ripping up carpet and laying down bamboo floors as part of the renovation. When it's complete, there will be a total of 19 bedrooms, one more than before.
Nearly all the rooms will have private bathrooms, a luxury not available as part of the old design.
The reimagined space also includes an open kitchen with four stations and increased handicap accessibility. Ralston says many families find solace in the kitchen during their stay.
"There's something about having a home-cooked meal that reminds you of the feelings of comfort that you have about home," she said.
The redesigned home also includes a new area dedicated to day families who spend the night at the hospital.
"They still need a place to shower, a place to eat, a place to do laundry," said Ralston.
During the last seven months, Ronald McDonald House guests have had to move to other spaces to accommodate the construction. Ten families have been staying at University of Virginia dorms, others have been able to stay bedside at the hospital and some families have been lodging in discounted hotel rooms across town.
"My staff has done a wonderful job continuing to provide as near an existence for the families as we can," said Ralston. "It's different, but what we do and why we do it is still the same -- taking care of children and their families."
The home is expected to reopen to families in late February or early March.
To learn more about the Ronald McDonald House and how you can support its mission, click HERE.