A dedicated group of grandmothers (pictured left from last Halloween) has one simple attitude when it comes to volunteering their time at Ronald McDonald House: appreciating that it too, is their House. “This place feels like home,” says Mary Ann Marino. “I love coming here, helping out the families who really need our support. I think we’ve built something really special.”
Mary Ann joins fellow House Ambassadors Carolyn Andruscavage and Pat Antonses during the afternoon shift every other Thursday at our Ronald McDonald House near Advocate Children’s Hospital. “The reason Ronald McDonald House is so special is that it’s open to everybody,” Pat says. “There’s such a warm, welcoming feeling here.”
Mary Ann, a Tinley Park resident who has volunteered at RMHC for more than two-and-a-half years, says she feels that homey connection whenever she walks in the door. Mary Ann also encourages her family to spend time volunteering at the House. She and her last husband have two children and four grandchildren, ages 13-16.
Mary Ann first visited Ronald McDonald House with her granddaughter, Ellie, now 16, who chose to lend a hand with the House’s annual Christmas decorating festivities as part of the young girl’s sacrament of Confirmation service project. Ellie had previously joined a Meals from the Heart project hosted by her Girls Scout Troop. “The whole experience was tremendously satisfying,” Mary Ann said. “I went home immediately and filled out the volunteer application.” Other members of Mary Ann’s family also volunteer at the House and cook for guests during Meals from the Heart.
“The heart of any home is helping others through tough times, Carolyn says. “I was looking for some place to volunteer that was not a hospital or retirement home. A place where I felt my talents would go to good use. It’s all about helping people.”
Carolyn, a Bridgeview resident, as served as a Family Ambassador for five years. Carolyn and her late husband have five children and six grandchildren. She also volunteers at Brookfield Zoo. The positions complement each other, she says. “I enjoy both volunteer opportunities for different reasons,” Carolyn says. “One lets me enjoy the outdoors while the other has me indoors, helping the families. This is such a beautiful place. Here, the staff is great. Always helpful. Always smiles.”
Pat, who lives in Chicago with her husband Larry, also has given five years of service to the House. The couple has three children and three grandchildren. Although her grand kids are young, Pat says she hopes to have them volunteering in the House someday so they can experience the joy of serving others together. “After retirement, I knew it was time to give back,” Pat says. “The Ronald McDonald House is a perfect way to do that.” “I wholeheartedly agree,” Mary Ann says. “And that’s a pervasive thought around here. We’re all so grateful for all we have, and it’s important to share our success with others.”
All three volunteers help RMHC beyond their regularly scheduled shifts, too. Each volunteers for the various House fundraising events, donates financially, and helps to buy Wish List items. “Our group is very positive,” Pat says. “We’re here to listen if that’s what our guests need. Otherwise, we can enjoy quietly going about our duties.”