Ronald McDonald Family Room offers ‘home away from home’

Roselva Ruiz, programs manager for Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Southwest, poses for a…

Ronald McDonald Family Room offers ‘home away from home’

Families who have loved ones staying at Medical Center Hospital have a “home away from home” — the Ronald McDonald Family Room.

Located on the second floor of the hospital, the facility is available through a partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Southwest Inc. The hospital’s website said the room is the 100th in the world.

It has four bedrooms, washer and dryer, office areas, a kitchen with a microwave and oven, snacks and drinks, and living room.The walls have photos of newborns that have been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

A view of the living room area of the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Medical Center Hospital. The facility provides a place for family members to stay while their loved ones are in the hospital. (Ruth Campbell | Odessa American)

Roselva Ruiz, programs manager for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Southwest, said they’re always in the market for donations of household goods and volunteers.

They serve the Southwest Chapter of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which includes 68 counties in West Texas, the Panhandle and Southeastern New Mexico.

Each room can accommodate two people. Children can visit their parents, but they are not allowed to spend the night in the family room.

Ruiz said the reason is it’s against hospital policy and they adhere to all MCH policies.

“Basically, our purpose is that our houses (and) family rooms are built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child,” Ruiz said. “Not where they can afford to stay, where they need to get their next meal, where they need to lay their head. We want to provide everything for a family so that they don’t have to be worried, or stressed out about those basic needs. And we believe that when a child is hospitalized, the love and support of a family is as powerful as the medicine …”

All the bedrooms usually stay filled.

“We do have just a small waiting list. … Once a family checks out, we’ll check in another family,” Ruiz said.

Ronald McDonald House Charities is a worldwide organization that is in 90 percent of the world’s leading hospitals, Ruiz said.

To get a room, you have to fill out an application.

“We do have an app. It’s RMHC of the Southwest and we are on Facebook and all social media outlets. But if you download our app, we instruct families that they can fill out the application on the Permian Basin tab on the app,” Ruiz said.

Once they receive that, it is processed and must be approved through a social worker or charge nurse. When approved and a background check is obtained on the family, they are welcome to stay.

Ruiz said it doesn’t take long for that to go through.

Most parents who stay in the Ronald McDonald rooms have children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“Pediatrics is located on the fifth floor on the west side of Medical Center Hospital. And so what happens is because we are at a distance from them, it’s difficult for those parents to come and actually stay and leave their child and stay here. But what we do is we go to them, so we serve them by us visiting those parents and we will take toys up,” Ruiz said.

“That’s another one of our programs is the Ronald McDonald hospitality card. We’re about to roll out a brand new one come next year. That will not just only serve the pediatrics or families of children, but the whole hospital. We’re going to plan to park it out in front and we will be serving tea, coffee. We’ll be serving water and snacks and be able to provide toys or things like that for children. We will be rolling that out hopefully in early 2023,” Ruiz added.

Meanwhile, they have a hospitality cart that they take up to pediatrics. They deliver toys weekly there and visit families that have pediatric patients.

“The other thing that we have is we have meal donations by local restaurants. Currently we have McDonald’s, of course, who is our corporate sponsor to the Ronald McDonald organization. They provide Happy Meals and hamburgers every Tuesday … to all of our families. … We have different local restaurants right now that provide a hot meal once a week,” she said.

They work with local restaurants to determine what day is convenient for them.

“As long as we have a hot meal, we’re good. We’re always looking for great community restaurants who are willing to give the donation to feed these families, “Ruiz said.

Because the Ronald McDonald Room is in the hospital, there is no stove.

“… Our house in Lubbock is a three-story home with 17 bedrooms. Families who go and stay at that Ronald McDonald House have the ability to also cook if … their own meat meals … However, meals are constantly being also brought by the community there in Lubbock,” she added.

At the MCH family room, the NICU is nearby so moms can walk down the hallway in the middle of the night.

“… At same the time we’re taking care of those families so that they can get better and being able to get what they need for their babies … It’s really a great organization,” Ruiz said.

One-hundred percent of what you give to the family room goes directly back to these families.

“Eighty-percent of our income for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Southwest is generated by donations. I’m happy to say that McDonald’s donates 2 cents per Happy Meal. … It turns into millions per year. … And that’s a global (figure). …,” Ruiz said.

“It’s a good support for us,” she added.

They have been in the process of replacing the furniture. They are currently looking into replacing the dining area and bed frames in the bedrooms.

“We did get a donation last year for new mattresses in all the rooms, but the beds do need to be replaced; just like our homes, so everything eventually needs upgrading,” Ruiz said.

She noted that MCH housekeeping takes care of the family room.

“They are the ones who come and clean all of our rooms and take care of our family room, so that we are up to hospital standards. Medical Center hospital is the one who takes very good care of us and they take care of any other needs that we’ve got,” Ruiz said.

The hospital auxiliary also has contributed. In 2020, before the pandemic hit, they provided the family room with a Christmas tree. They also have provided a new vacuum cleaner and rugs.

“They’re angels in this hospital. They’re amazing,” Ruiz said. “The auxiliary was a great support.”

She added that they are always in need of volunteers.

“If you are under 18 and would like to volunteer, you would need to be accompanied by a guardian. an adult, a parent to be able to volunteer,” Ruiz said.

They can also provide scholar hours or other types of volunteer hours that students might need.

“Anybody over 18 is welcome to just fill out an application. We run a background check. TB tests must be taken through Medical Center Hospital, of course, orientation through Medical Center and Ronald McDonald are some of the requirements to become a volunteer,” she said.

They also work with the Odessa College work-study program so students can work for them.

They also are open to having University of Texas Permian Basin students.

They recently opened at family room on the fourth floor of Midland Memorial Hospital, as well. It does not have bedrooms; only a kitchen and living area.

Donations of household goods also are needed from paper towels to cleaning items, receiving blankets, baby toys, rubber gloves, toiletries, detergent-he, Dreft for babies, fabric softener and dryer sheets; individually packaged snacks; K-Cup Coffee, creamer, individual sugar packets and cookie dough.

Also, copy paper, postage stamps, masking tape, Sharpies, AA batteries, queen-sized sheets and a special request, HEB gift cards.