City officials and staff from the Ronald McDonald House of New Haven held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Wednesday to celebrate the completion of the house, a $11.35 million project.
The Ronald McDonald House gives families a place to stay while their children are in long-term care at any one of several area children’s hospitals, although the majority are served at Yale New Haven Hospital. Thirty percent of families come from Fairfield County, but another 30 percent are international, coming from as far away as Peru or Venezuela.
The new Ronald McDonald House is located on 860 Howard Ave., directly across the street from the Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. The house contains 20 guest rooms, eight more than its old location at 501 George St.
“Planning for this new Ronald McDonald House began about six years ago when Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital said that they needed more home-away-from-home bedrooms for families with children who had traveled a great distance,” said Stocky Clark, director of the Ronald McDonald House charities for Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. “They offered the property across the street from the children’s hospital for us to build on.”
In late June, the Ronald McDonald House enlisted volunteers to pack up supplies and belongings from their previous location. Although move-in was in early July, the house’s official opening was not until September because of some lingering issues, such as the front sign not arriving or being set up until more than a month after the house’s opening, said manager Wendy Kirby.
The new location has added more than convenience and physical space: Now, the staff can utilize new resources to help guests in innovative ways. In addition to 18 traditional bedrooms on the second and third floors, house organizers designated two rooms on the first floor as respite rooms and piloted its respite program on Sept. 20.
“The respite program allows families to reserve a room for two hours to take a nap, take a shower, or just to be on the first floor, which includes our kitchen, our living room and our TV room,” said Brittney Ferraro, the coordinator for the house’s respite and volunteer programs. “Especially if you have two surgeries during the day, it’s a chance for families to come and get away instead of staying in the waiting room.”
One of the most popular amenities at the new location is the house’s kitchen. It contains four six-burner stoves, four dishwashers, four microwaves, two industrial-size refrigerators and freezers, as well as a walk-in pantry that is always stocked. The house receives weekly corporate food donations: orange juice and milk from the dairy company Hood, bread from the baking company Freihofer and produce from the supermarket Trader Joe’s. Coca-Cola also donates soft drinks to stock a vending machine, and the house charges only a quarter for these beverages — money that is then rolled back into the budget to buy essential items.
Many guests appreciate the privacy they can find at the new Ronald McDonald House, even though there are numerous social spaces such as living rooms, elevator landings with couches and dining areas, Ferraro said.
“In the old house, there was a community bathroom on every floor, and now they love having their own bathrooms,” she said.
House staff have already set in place long-term plans for phase two and phase three of construction, which are scheduled to finish before 2020, pending adequate funding.
Phase two will require no further construction. Rather, 10 office spaces and conference rooms inside the new facility will be converted into guest rooms, increasing the bedroom count to 30.
“The third phase will be the demolition of the building next door, which is currently called the Adler Center,” Clark said. “We will then convert [it] to a wing of the Ronald McDonald House which will contain 12 bedrooms.”
Ronald McDonald House Charities was founded in 1974 and currently runs more than 350 facilities across the globe.
Elliot Wailoo | firstname.lastname@example.org .