Building Group Volunteers from Duke Medicine Projects in Durham, NC, Support Local Ronald McDonald House, Prepare and Serve Dinner for 50 Families of Hospitalized Children
July 7, 2011

Building Group employees from the Duke Medicine Pavilion, Duke Cancer Center and North Concourse Expansion projects generously gave their time, energy and money to support a local Ronald McDonald House in Durham, North Carolina.

The Ronald McDonald House program is for families with seriously ill or injured children. The House provides a “home-away-from-home” for families so they can stay close by their hospitalized child at little or no cost — allowing them access to specialized medical treatment that may be hundreds or thousands of miles away from where they live.

Building Group Superintendent AJ Mullins took the initiative to invite the Executive Director of the Durham Ronald McDonald House, David Knobeloch, to our team’s April 15 staff meeting at the Duke Medicine site. Knobeloch talked to our team about volunteer service opportunities. Within a week, 20 Building Group employees signed up to host a dinner for the Durham Ronald McDonald House’s 50 residents. Planning was led by Kathy Fletcher, who also organized employees into teams for menu planning/shopping, entertainment, grilling, other dinner prep, clean-up, desserts and donations.

On May 24, our volunteers prepared a feast of grilled chicken, green beans, steak fried potatoes, rolls, and potato salad along with homemade desserts. The chicken was donated by Environmental Air Systems (EAS); MC Dean, Inc. (electrical systems) purchased sodas for 100 people; Sunbelt Rentals provided the grill and the fuel; and employees donated cash to cover groceries and other disposables needed. Safety Manager James Hodge brought cupcakes; AJ Mullins brought fruit salad; Superintendent David Panek (our grill master) and his wife, Melissa, brought toffee brownies; Project Manager Kate Moore made a cheery sunshine cake; and Senior Project Manager John Cook brought a coconut cake.

When a young boy who is in treatment at Duke University Hospital ate a piece of Cook’s coconut cake, he enthusiastically insisted upon meeting the person who made this “awesome cake.” The boy ran over to Cook, “high-fived” him, shook his hand and hugged him, as he proclaimed it was the best cake he had ever tasted! The boy pulled Cook back into the House, holding on to his hand, and sat with him while he wrote down the recipe. Assistant Superintendent Myron Albright wrapped up the evening with a Disney Characters game of charades with prizes from the Ronald McDonald House prize vault.

Kathy Fletcher noted, “Pulling together on a volunteer effort like this one not only allows the team to get to know each other better outside of the work environment, it also gives us several perspectives we don’t encounter in everyday work: the wonder of seeing the uninhibited joy of seriously ill children playing games and laughing, the opportunity to nurture and interact with families who are going through a rough time, and the rewards of coming together to provide service within our community.”

The Building Group’s team of volunteers included the following employees: John Rosenberger, Kevin Houghton, Linsey Stansberry, Ian Mayer, Mike Hyatt, Darren Searcy, Monica Young, Matthew Readling, Bonnie McQueen, Brian Cishek, Mark Kendall, Matt Kenne, Maggie Weeks and Lynn Padgett, along with those previously mentioned — AJ Mullins, Kathy Fletcher, James Hodge, David Panek, John Cook, Kate Moore and Myron Albright.

More about Ronald McDonald Houses

Ronald McDonald Houses worldwide are based on the idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on healing their child. The Houses permit families to not worry about what they can afford, how they will eat, or where they will sleep while their child is in treatment. Private bedrooms, home cooked meals, and playrooms for children are provided at the 306 Houses across the world. Special services are provided in select Houses, including education programs, special suites for children with suppressed immune systems, recreational activities, and support systems. The Ronald McDonald Foundation relies on donations and volunteers. In return, the families either stay free of cost or are asked to make up to a $25 donation per day, depending on the House. No family is ever turned away, regardless of inability to pay.