I’ve been working diligently on my dissertation lately. I’m writing about the concept of “Home” and what that means to us as individuals and families. So, it was with the theories of home I’ve been reading and my own conclusions about what that word means that I entered the Gatewood Ronald McDonald House in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago.
Once I rang the doorbell, I was immediately greeted with a friendly smile and led back to meet with Lauren Chandley, the Marketing and Communications Intern. Lauren showed me around the house. I knew the family eating and sitting areas around the main lobby and the kitchen, but I’d never seen so much of the house. The rooms the families stay in are very much arranged like a hotel room, but the wall colors, lighting, and art work are more inviting than the typical hotel. Every room has a view of the outside so that the families can see nature around them; it gives the rooms a rather open feel to them. Also on the floors with rooms, there are many family areas where families can go and eat dinner, sit and read a book, or lounge around watching television. There is a conference room with computers where parents can carry on business or work from “home” while staying at the house. The house and rooms were immaculately clean! I didn’t think it was humanly possible for a place to be more clean – then Lauren took me into the transplant wing! The air is purified, and everything is sterilized. This wing houses the transplant patients who are well enough to leave the hospital but not well enough to go home and their families. These families stay longer at the house, so they have apartment type suites. These rooms have two bedrooms, their own kitchen and laundry rooms, and a small den. These families and children can’t interact with those outside the transplant wing because they can’t risk bringing infection to the transplant patients. There is a tv room where families of transplant patients can interact, and there is a conference room where family members can work and where doctors often come and meet with them. Back downstairs in the common areas, there are many sitting areas and nooks. There is a play room with everything from toys to video game stations; the house will soon be getting a Wii system, and everyone is rather pumped about it!
Throughout the tour I was continuously pleased with how home-like the house seemed. Families aren’t confined to their hotel-like rooms. There are plenty of places where they can go and do many of the things they do in their own homes. The house, like any home, has areas where people congregate and places of retreat for privacy. There are places outdoors where family members can go to get fresh air, have a picnic, or just walk around. No place can replace our real homes, but often places away from home serve well as temporary homes while providing all that the primary home does. The Ronald McDonald House is a homey house that comes as close to being “home” as anywhere away from home can be.
There are many ways to get involved if you want. Several events are coming up, and the houses can always use volunteers. I’ll be blogging soon about each of the upcoming events and about various ways in which you can get involved with the Ronald McDonald House in Atlanta (or the one near you).