Updated: February 10, 2021 05:41 PM
Created: February 10, 2021 05:26 PM
The first families to stay in the Ronald McDonald House Northland could be settling in Wednesday night.
Any parent or caretaker of a child in the hospital in the Twin Ports is eligible.
The facility is part of Essentia's Vision Northland project, but CEO Dr. David Herman said they didn't want to wait until the hospital tower completion in 2023.
"There is tremendous pediatric care that takes place at Essentia Health and in Duluth in general, and we knew that families really need that type of support, that type of service, and we knew that we would be remiss if we did not build a Ronald McDonald House into the plans," he said.
There are five bedrooms, each with a private bathroom, as well as a kitchen and living space. Families staying there are provided nine free meals per week, and others who aren't staying over are also invited in for coffee or lunch.
"The way that families are served looks different every day," Amy Ament, COO for Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest, said. "It could be that a family's coming in for a cup of coffee or just some respite, could be a nap and a shower, or an overnight room. So we have had families utilize services for one day up to 2.5-3 years, depending on the care that their child is receiving for their critical illness or injury."
They have a waiting list so that as many families as possible are being served at one time.
People are connected to the Ronald McDonald House through Essentia's social work team, but they don't have to be related to an Essentia patient.
"Nobody expects to go through any of this," Jill Evenocheck, President and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest, said. "And to be able to provide people with free lodging and food and other services at a time that their world is upside down, I think is the least that we can do."
The house is located at 503 E 3rd St.
The opening was originally scheduled for November 2020, but was pushed back due to delays in equipment and unexpected fixes that came up with the 190-year-old building.
Herman serves on the board for Ronald McDonald House and described how each house has a journal in which parents and caregivers write stories as they leave.
"Those stories are incredibly moving and those people stay connected with the Ronald McDonald House literally for the rest of their lives," Herman said. "And so what this means to me is an opportunity for the people in the Northland to have that same type of experience, that same type of support."
Eventually, there will be in-person volunteer opportunities to make meals and help out. But for now, monetary donations are the best way to help. People can also purchase needed supplies off their Amazon wish list.
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