‘You learn how people find hope’: YXE Underground on how Ronald McDonald House is navigating the pandemic

The Ronald McDonald House in Saskatoon is not letting a global pandemic stand in the way of fulfilling its mission of helping Saskatchewan families with sick children.

“What I see in my colleagues is a common desire to have an impact in our community,” explained Director of Human Resource Development Kim Gilbert.

The House was forced to close when COVID-19 arrived in Saskatoon. In June of 2020, the organization did a soft launch where 12 of 34 rooms were made available to families from across the province.

“We ran the gambit of families that were like, ‘oh good, now we can stay,’ to families that were like, ‘communal living environment, not sure I want to go there,” explained CEO Tammy Forrester. “I would say our slow opening allowed for some people to feel like it was safe for them. So they knew that it was a 34 room house but only 12 families were here.”

One of the biggest challenges the Ronald McDonald House staff has faced during the pandemic is the lack of volunteers. COVID-19 restrictions forced the organization to close to volunteers who do everything from preparing meals for families to offering emotional support during tough days.

“Volunteers bring so much to the house and to the families,” said Director of Operations Marcelline Zimmer. “Most importantly, there’s just a spirit about them that makes the House more alive when they are around.”

Forrester is hoping the House can welcome back volunteers in the months to come. In the meantime, she and her team will continue to offer supports and programs to families that are under such extreme pressures.

“You learn about how people interact. How people deal with stress. How people find hope. How resilient people are. You just see everything, every day.”

To listen to this, and all other YXE Underground podcasts, head to www.yxeunderground.com