Children's Hospital Employees Make and Serve Lunch to Ronald McDonald House Families

Ronald McDonald House Charities of KnoxvilleOnce a month, employees from East Tennessee Children’s Hospital can be found chopping, baking, and cooking for families in need at the Ronald McDonald House.

The Ronald McDonald House provides temporary lodging and the comforts of home for families with critically ill or injured children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. The House is available to any family who lives outside of Knox County, acting as a home-away-from-home as their child stays in the hospital. The House offers multiple different home resources, such as private bedrooms, play areas, and laundry facilities; there’s also a fully stocked kitchen, where Children’s Hospital staff come to prepare and serve a meal once a month.

This tradition started in 2013 as a way to give back to the community and the patients and families of Children’s Hospital. So far, East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has contributed more than seventy meals to the House. Each month, the meal is provided by a different department, unit, or group within the hospital; throughout the duration of the program, more than twenty different departments have had the chance to serve a home-cooked meal. In June, a team from the emergency department served the House breakfast foods for dinner, complete with biscuits, gravy, and fresh fruit – a treat for the families, as the House does not serve home-cooked breakfasts.

The volunteer-cooked dinners served at Ronald McDonald House provide families with the comfort of a hot meal during the stressful time of having a loved one in the hospital; it also lessens the financial burden, as eating out or in the hospital cafeteria can be a substantial expense.

Chris Tolliver, the clinical education manager of Organizational Development and Learning, oversees the program and cites the family interaction as one of the highlights of the program.

“The encounters that I have with the families are priceless,” says Tolliver. “They are gracious and thankful for the groups who come and provide. Sometimes you think you are just providing a meal, but you are providing an ear to listen. Some are thankful that they have company to talk with. ”

This sentiment is shared by Sue Beverly, director of Ronald McDonald House, who says that the service of preparing these meals not only provides a comforting hot meal, but also some much needed support to the families staying at the house.

“We’re incredibly grateful that our partnership with Children’s goes beyond addressing the obvious medical needs they have with their child and touches on a family’s holistic needs such as providing home-cooked meals, emotional support, and a safe haven where they can relax away from the stress they face at the hospital,” says Beverly.

Tolliver and Beverly both see the partnership as mutually beneficial; the House gets to better know the Children’s staff, and hospital employees get the opportunity to work with the House in aiding the families’ emotional wellbeing outside of the hospital setting.

“It means the world to them knowing that people truly care about what they are going through,” says Beverly. “Being well taken care of gives parents that much more strength, both physical and emotional, that is needed to deal with their child’s illness.”