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How to Make an Impact in Roanoke Through the Ronald McDonald House

Be Inspired | Do Good

Before Anna Semonco became the Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities Southwest Virginia (RMHC SWVA), she was unware that RMHC SWVA existed until she needed a place for her grandson to stay. “I found out about the Ronald McDonald House, incidentally. When my grandson was born, he had a traumatic birth. He needed to be stabilized and was transported from Princeton Hospital to Roanoke Memorial Children’s Hospital.” As Anna’s grandson was treated, her son stayed at the Ronald McDonald House and this led her to apply after seeing the good the House did. She was offered the position of Executive Director, which she accepted. Her determination and commitment genuinely showcase why her career move into the nonprofit sector as Executive Director was the right one. This position provides Anna with the privilege of providing support to families in need during one of their most intimate moments and that’s what keeps Anna coming back every day.

The Ronald McDonald House Southwest Virginia is perfectly aligned to serve Roanoke, located a few blocks away from Carilion’s Children’s Hospital, RMHC SWVA serves up to 25 miles away from the House’s location. At their core, RMHC exists to prevent the burden of a hotel room and the cost of eating out every day. “The things that could devastate a family.” The House itself is a spacious 18-room facility, a large dining room and ample space for families. And with volunteers in every evening to cook meals for the families, a warm meal at the end of an exhausting day makes all of the difference. Anna sees the direct impact of RMHC SWVA, “We just had a family stay with us, they were with us for 225 days. If it had not been for the Ronald McDonald House, they would have been bankrupt.” Not only is the House available to families, but there is also an extension of the calm environment for families to take a breather during a hospital stay in the RMHC well-resourced, relaxing Family Room on the fourteenth floor of Carilion’s Children Hospital.

Working as the Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House has been the “hardest job I ever loved.” It is a challenging environment, but Anna looks forward to work every day. “You feel privileged to be here.” But what she loves most about her work is to see those who stay at RMHC SWVA go through their journey and come out the other side. “Some stories don’t always end the way we hoped but…no matter what the end of their story is; they remember their time.”

The most substantial challenge RMHC SWVA faces is to ensure the community is educated about the core of their mission, “people know about Ronald McDonald House and know about those donation boxes in McDonald’s but until you go to the house, take a tour of it and see it for [yourself], [you] don’t realize” what Ronald McDonald House is. It is the “neighbor to give someone a place to stay, food to eat and take care of their basic needs at a time they need it most while their child’s in the hospital.” Although there are challenges in conveying their mission, the RMHC SWVA is 90% financially supported by the community, for which Anna, their staff, volunteers, but most importantly the families who use RMHC SWVA, are forever grateful.

Transitioning into her role as Executive Director was not comfortable. If Anna were to step back in time and provide herself with a piece of advice, she would say, “I realize I never get my to-do list done. Ever. But that’s ok because it prioritizes itself. When you see the families that you help, it rejuvenates why you’re there. It takes a team, and all have to be invested.” She also reflects on the best piece of advice she has ever received, one that keeps her grounded, it would be “Get to the nucleus of why you’re doing what you’re doing.” For Anna, she didn’t want to see a child in the hospital with their family sleeping in the car. When you have uncovered why you do what you do, “relay that to your Board of Directors, your staff, your team – ask them: Why are you here? What is your purpose?” Every day, Anna remembers her mission, and it never fails to reinvigorate her passion for ensuring that someone going through a traumatic experience is never alone.

Since 1984, Ronald McDonald House Southwest Virginia has served over 20,000 families and has enriched the hearts of countless others. But when people thank Anna she can’t help but tell the community that they’re “thanking themselves.” The Roanoke community enables what the RMHC SWVA can do, “We could not do it if it were not for the community and those who support us.” Getting involved as a volunteer for the Ronald McDonald House is as easy as heading to their website. There’s no barrier to volunteering – from children to grandparents, individuals and teams, Ronald McDonald House Southwest Virginia welcomes everyone. They want to ensure the volunteer work you take on is not just meaningful but also what you do best! Reach out to Anna by phone 540-857-0770 or email info@rmhouse.net to chat with her about your qualifications and what you’re looking for to find the best fit for you.

It would be remiss to not mention fundraising. Fundraising is what keeps Ronald McDonald House Southwest Virginia alive. Giving to Ronald McDonald House is as simple as donating soda can tabs, your spare change at McDonalds or food donations to their food program. “Simple things like that have a huge impact. Any donation from $10 to $15,000.” You can see the impact you make too, with $10, you can buy laundry detergent for the House for two days. $250 will keep the lights on for a week, and $1,600 can operate the House for one day. Although it might not be the end of the year yet, Ronald McDonald House, “needs [donations] any time of year because children don’t stop being sick.”

With the great impact and a great, servant heart, Anna Semonco is pleased to have found life’s meaningful work at Ronald McDonald House Southwest Virginia. Which isn’t to say she doesn’t have time for the other loves of her life, her new husband, her kids and her two grandchildren but with such a large heart, Anna can carry it all.

Listen to the full interview to hear Anna’s passion first-hand.

 

Written by Emma Shulist

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