The Heart of Volunteerism

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Photography by Sarah Oden

Mallory McFall, Christie Reyes, Alexia Parker, Kara Giddings, Janis Harrison 

   Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas is one of the most notable nonprofit organizations in Central Arkansas. What started as an eight-room house in 1980 has expanded into an organization that assists 2,400 families annually through the Ronald McDonald House as well as the Ronald McDonald Family Room. Inspired by the children receiving treatment at area hospitals and this “home-away-from-home” – more than 950 volunteers comprise a team of ardent ambassadors that embark on the continued mission fulfillment work of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas.

   “Volunteers are the heart of many nonprofit organizations, and for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas this is no exception,” Janell Mason, its CEO, elaborates. “This incredible group of volunteers comes from all walks of life – community leaders, churches, sororities, alumni, school groups, neighbors, college students, friends and family. There are so many ways to be involved.” 

   The Ronald McDonald House boasts 32,000 square feet and features 32 family-suites as well as a spacious dining room, kitchen and shared recreational rooms. There is even a two-story slide and basketball half-court. Auxiliary groups and volunteers prepare dinners, bake cookies, create activities and connect families with a support system. Last year, 957 volunteers returned to donate 3,785 hours of their time in support of the organization’s events as well as administrative and logistical necessities. “Tasks range from cooking dinners for families in the house to serving in the Ronald McDonald Family Room at UAMS, baking cookies and spending quality time with Mac, our director of smiles,” Janell explains. “There’s something for everyone and every hour of time and talent someone donates is greatly valued.” 

   The Red Shoe Crew raises awareness for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas through networking and attending fun events. There is a RMHCA Amazon Wishlist that helps provide toiletries and other necessities for families at the house as well. “You can sign up to provide meals. This can be done by a group cooking, having a meal catered or donating to sponsor a breakfast, lunch or dinner,” Janell continues. “Whether it is collecting aluminum pop tabs or giving one-time monetary gifts, monthly donations or even event sponsorships, every action counts.”

   Throughout its tenure of four decades, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas has served more than 42,000 families. With a finite focus on keeping families together and near a critically ill child in one of Little Rock’s hospitals, RMHCA offers these amenities free to families, regardless of their ability to pay. In 2021, volunteers provided invaluable time + energy that translated into 422 families who stayed at the house in 2021 – a total 5,698 nights’ expenses saved for them of $890,923 and thousands of lives transformed. 

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