DANVILLE — Precautions put in place as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have touched virtually every aspect of life in the Central Susquehanna Valley.
The Ronald McDonald House of Danville is among the numerous entities impacted by restrictions designed to help stop the spread of the virus. With a restriction currently in place on those who are permitted to enter the facility, the house is seeking support to maintain a program which serves families of children hospitalized at Geisinger Medical Center.
Ginnetta Reed, director of marketing and events, explained several ways in which the coronavirus outbreak has impacted the operations of the house.
“The hard reality is that our program brings families together from far and wide,” Reed said. “That puts people at risk. We are doing everything we can to maintain social distancing.”
In addition, the house has put a number of new policies and procedures in place in an effort to keep those staying there safe and healthy.
According to Reed, the Ronald McDonald House of Danville can serve up to 19 families at one time.
“We have increased the cleaning and disinfecting procedures throughout the house,” Reed explained. “We have a travel screen and a health screen when families enter the house. We screen them with various questions.”
In addition, the Ronald McDonald House Family Room inside Geisinger Medical Center has been shut down for the time being. Visitors are no longer permitted to come to the house, some staff members are working remotely and the volunteer program has temporarily been discontinued.
“Not having volunteers there, it has really hit us hard with our meals program, Meals that Heal,” Reed said.
When the program is operational, she said each day volunteers — including church groups, corporations and college students — provide meals for those staying at the house.
“We have to find the financial resources to sustain that program on our own,” Reed said, noting that for the time being volunteers can not bring those daily meals to the house.
Donations of at least $25 each are being sought from community members in order to maintain the program.
“The meals provide families comfort and support that allows them to fully focus on what matters most, which is their child’s health,” she said. “The house provides a sense of normalcy from their day-to-day routine and it gives the families hope.”
Lucia Pursel, of Williamsport, is one of the individuals who would provide meals prior to the restrictions being put in place.
According to Reed, Pursel’s family previously stayed at the house when her son Rhythm was born prematurely. Her other son, Lyrik, enjoyed the house’s playroom while his brother was hospitalized.
Pursel said it’s important for her to continue to support the Meals that Heal program.
“It’s a way for me to give back and talk to families who are going through similar situations,” she said.
Reed said the restrictions and new procedures are currently in place through the end of April, and will be reevaluated at that time. Staff members are working to maintain the house and its programs in the absence of volunteers.
“We rely heavily on our volunteers,” Reed said. “Our volunteers will often come in and sit with families, talk with them. They will answer phones, help with various cleaning tasks, organizing tasks.
“Without (volunteers), it’s been very challenging,” she continued. “We have three full-time employees who are really working hard to maintain the operations of the house every day, with other staff who are working remotely.”
In the absence of volunteers who can provide the daily Meals that Heal program, Reed said staff members have been preparing food for those staying at the house.
“There might be times where (staff) have to run to the store and pick things up (for meals),” she said. “Weis Markets recently made a $250 donation to us to help support the meal program... We are going to do what we can to try to maintain this program.”
Donations to support the Meals that Heal program can be sent to the Ronald McDonald House of Danville, P.O. Box 300, Danville, PA 17821.
Contributions can also be made online at www.rmhdanville.org/donations.