At the beginning of the pandemic, Ronald McDonald House Charities© (RMHC) Atlantic was looking for ways to still support families at the IWK despite being shut down. Their House, Family Rooms, and programs had all been closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, which left the charity with limited ways to provide their regular comforts.
One of their most popular programs was the Home For Dinner program which provided pre-made meals to long-term stay families at no cost to them. The team knew the impact that its shut down could have on families and they first began helping by giving out Dial for Dining gift cards to patient families. A $20 a day voucher for IWK internal meal services.
The progression of support from RMHC Atlantic continued to adapt as more areas began to open up and more opportunities became available. When they were able to access the Family Room, located in the Goldbloom Pavilion at the IWK University Ave. site, the team wasted no time in getting back to providing families with a familiar support.
“That’s when we started the Grab-n-Go Bag program,” says Jess Ur, Family Room & Program Coordinator for RMHC Atlantic. The Grab-n-Go bags are brown paper bags filled with nutritional snacks and are provided Monday to Friday from the Family Room entrance. Along with these daily snacks, the RMHC team is now able to offer a hot meal for pick-up three times a week for IWK families.
“The two programs have had great feedback so far,” Ur continues. “We have one grandmother who comes down every day. She told us how impactful it’s been to just have some semblance of routine in her day when she can come down to pick up the snack for her family.”
The snacks and hot meals are all completely planned and prepared by the RMHC staff team. “We don’t have our volunteers back, and aren’t able to open our kitchen up to others who may want to help cook,” says Alison Cogdon, RMHC Atlantic Director of Programs & Operations. “It’s kind of funny that our Operations Manager is now cooking ham, but our entire team has been great about adapting.”
The efforts have not gone unnoticed by IWK families. The team has been told that what they’re providing is “much more than just a meal.” They’ve received emails of appreciation from PICU families, comments of gratitude from many people stopping by and the sentiment is always how grateful families are to feel supported during their challenging times.
While the team is thrilled about the response to their efforts, they say it couldn’t have happened without the support so many IWK teams. From Infection Prevention and Control assisting in operational safety to Social Workers who grab bags on behalf of families to bring back to the units. “We are so happy to be back on-site and serving the families again,” says Ur. “Just to be able to talk to those that we’ve had long-standing relationships with and connect with the community is huge to us.”
The Ronald McDonald Family Room in the Goldbloom Pavillion provides Grab-n-Go snack bags between 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. Monday to Friday. Hot meals are available for pick-up between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The team also has ‘activity bags’ available for children and adults that contain crossword puzzles, colouring pages, and more.
“While so much has changed for our communities throughout these past few months, children don’t stop needing urgent or life-saving health care, and the need to support these families continues.
We’ve strived to adapt as quickly and safely as possible to support families in our Family Rooms and our House, and we’re so grateful for the support we continue to receive from our community.
None of this would be possible without our partnership with our contacts at the IWK Health Centre, who have been instrumental in helping to ensure that we can safely support Maritime families with sick children when they need it most.”
-Alison Cogdon, Director of Programs & Operations, Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic