By Monica Pierce
If you find yourself caring for an ill or injured child, having to travel far from home to receive the necessary treatment, you shouldn’t have to worry about things like where to sleep, what to eat, or how to get some laundry done.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Idaho (RMHC of Idaho) is dedicated to supporting families who find themselves in such arduous scenarios by offering a safe and comfortable place to stay that is located near treatment facilities, as well as providing resources and support for the whole family so they can focus on caring for their child.
The first Idaho Ronald McDonald House opened on February 1, 1988 with four bedrooms serving such families in need. Over 31 years later, RMHC of Idaho currently operates a 17-room House in Boise, a recently-opened Ronald McDonald Family Room located within the walls of the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, plus two Happy Wheels Hospitality Carts in Boise and one in Twin Falls.
Although the name is recognized nationally and even globally, RMHC of Idaho is a local Idaho-based nonprofit. It is managed by its own board of directors and run by a lean team of eleven full-time staff and raises all funds through donations and fundraising.
While it has helped thousands of families over the years, RMHC of Idaho has recently seen a steady increase in demand and, according to executive director Mindy Plumlee, about five to ten qualifying families currently go unserved each day.
In an effort to keep ahead of the demand curve, RMHC of Idaho conducted an in-depth study to evaluate future needs for their services. Evaluating population growth as well as expansion plans of partners like Saint Alphonsus who is growing their pediatric specialties and St. Luke’s who recently opened the St. Luke’s Children’s Idaho Elks Pavilion for pediatric outpatient services, RMHC of Idaho determined that a much larger Ronald McDonald House was in order if they were to continue to meet the needs of our region.
Before building a new facility, RMHC of Idaho first needed to obtain a larger piece of property. The property would need to be in close proximity to medical services and RMHC of Idaho needed to be able to purchase the property in order to continue independent operation. Identifying this ideal one-acre property just steps away from St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital, RMHC of Idaho entered into a “land swap” deal with the owner, St. Luke’s. RMHC of Idaho has taken over ownership of the property and, in turn, St. Luke’s will take over ownership and operation of the current Ronald McDonald House, converting it into a facility that offers housing to families of adult patients – a service St. Luke’s has offered previously and is thrilled to be able to offer once again.
With an ideal piece of property secured at 139 E. Warm Springs Avenue, work began on the new House. RMHC of Idaho commissioned local firm and long-time RMHC supporter Cole Architects for design and Engineered Structures, Inc. (ESI) for construction of the new House. The team broke ground on February 1, 2019 and is on track to meet its aggressive plan for completion by February 1, 2020, precisely 32 years after the opening of the first Ronald McDonald House in Idaho.
Compared to the current House’s 14,000 square feet which serves 17 families each night, the new house will be 40,000 square feet, consisting of 47 guest rooms, private day rooms, community gathering spaces, and four kitchens.
The entire project will cost $15.3 million, including all furniture, fixtures and equipment. Thanks to an amazing community of donors and supporters, as of October 10, RMHC of Idaho has already raised an impressive $12 million and they are on track to raise the remainder.
As one might imagine, furnishing a 40,000 square foot house is not an easy – or inexpensive – task. That is why RMHC of Idaho has created a “housewarming wish list” where community members can sign up to buy all sorts of items including sheets, towels, dishes, lamps, irons, TVs, clocks, cooking utensils – you name it. Even the smallest contribution will help towards that $15.3 million mark and ensure the new House is fully operational and able to serve its families. The quick link to the “wish list” is bit.ly/2YZAX2N.
In addition to financial donations and the contribution of goods, RMHC of Idaho always welcomes volunteers from the community. With the opening of the new House, operations will inevitably require additional manpower, from running the front desk and welcoming guests, to building maintenance and landscaping, to housekeeping and of course, cooking, there will always be plenty of work to be done to keep this 40,000 square foot home running for its guests.
“Our donors, supporters and volunteers never cease to amaze us,” reflects Plumlee. “Of course, no family wants to have to stay at the Ronald McDonald House but our amazing volunteers ensure that, should you find yourself here, it’s as comfortable and warm of an experience as possible.”
To learn more about RMHC of Idaho or the new Ronald McDonald House opening in 2020, to make a donation, volunteer your time, or to learn about qualifying as a guest, visit www.rmhcidaho.org.