Amarillo Ronald McDonald charity accepts new families during pandemic unlike some others across country

Despite the pandemic, the charity has only needed to make minor changes to how they operate because of their unique living situation

VIDEO: Ronald McDonald house still operates because of their unique living situation

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Families who would normally be staying at the Ronald McDonald house have been staying in an apartment complex since last summer as their new building is being built.

This actually played in their favor once COVID-19 hit.

Other Ronald McDonald houses across the country have stopped allowing new families in due to the pandemic.

“When COVID first hit, we were all asked not to admit new families into houses where everybody’s in the same social space. Everybody’s in the kitchen together, everybody’s in the living room. And we were in a unique position because of the apartments and that really became the silver lining. We had, no idea that that was really gonna be in our favor,” said Shelley Cunningham, executive director at The Ronald McDonald House of Amarillo.

Living in the isolated apartments allowed the nonprofit to keep operating since families already had their own space, but have made changes to keep the patients safe from COVID-19.

“Being in the apartments during the pandemic has really been the ultimate blessing in disguise, and Amarillo has so many surrounding rural communities that really need to come here for their kids to get treatment,” said Luke Oliver, marketing and communications manager at The Ronald McDonald House of Amarillo.

Normally families would share certain common areas like the kitchen, living room and office spaces.

“We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have the 5 separate apartments. And our families are very isolated, it is very safe for them to come and go from the apartments. They are not sharing germs with each other, their very safe going back and fourth to the hospital,” said Cunningham.

The organization hopes to move forward safely when transitioning into their new building.

“The new building is going to usher in a new chapter for hope for families here. Our old house served us very well for 38 years, but it was kind of like going to grandmas house. It was dated, we just weren’t able to keep up with the changing demands to really provide the best comfort, hospitality and support for families,” said Oliver.

“We’ve got a private bedroom and bathroom. We’ve got laundry, we have meals that are provided, we’ve got community groups that provide meals. And then we have transportation to and from the hospital,” said Cunningham.

The building has made progress and there are people working on it right now. They are set to be done and opened by mid December, with hopes of getting families in by the end of this year safely.

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