The Ronald McDonald House is back in operation with a fresh new look thanks to help and advice from local businesses and individuals. Volunteers have been working together since August 2011 to ensure a speedy reopening of the shelter, which serves families of sick and injured children receiving treatment from Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
"It's nice to have the families back and have the house back in working order," said Jane Kaylor, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga.
When guests started noticing a musty odor in several of the rooms, Kaylor called Edwin Wade, president and owner of the full-service construction and environmental company Affinity Group, located in Soddy-Daisy, to do an inspection. Affinity discovered a water intrusion in the wing where the odor had been detected, along with issues caused by the air-conditioning unit in one of the guest rooms.
The house was closed last Aug. 24 for Affinity to complete the mold remediation project, which it did free of charge, as well as an upgrade in furnishings for the entire house that was originally slated for next year.
Wade said he was a recipient of the organization's hospitality nine years ago, when he and his wife stayed at the house for two weeks before his son passed away.
"That's how I became aware of what you really have for services," he said. "When you do have that need, the value of that is immeasurable."
Once the water issues in the house were taken care of, David Bashor, certified indoor environmentalist with Affinity Group, said he did a clearance sampling of the affected rooms to ensure their safety for occupancy.
RMH paid for the hotel stays of its guests at the time of its closing, said Chinyere Ubamadu, marketing and public relations manager for RMH Chattanooga. But services provided by RMH, including a meal prepared by volunteers each night, as well as its 62 guest rooms were unavailable to area families until the house reopened in mid-January.
Wade said he was impressed with the way everyone involved with the remediation and remodeling projects worked together to get the job done quickly and seamlessly. He also commended the attention paid by volunteers and donors to using only the best materials for the job regardless of cost, with quality and durability in mind.
Originally opened in 1990 with an addition built in 2000, the house's furniture was last replaced in 2005, said Kaylor. Carpeting in the hallways was 15 years old, and seven years old in the rooms.
Ubamadu said wallpaper, which is more conducive to mold growth, was removed from all rooms. Exterior drywall was replaced with more mold-resistant fiberglass-backed drywall, which is now coated with fresh paint.
She said the air-conditioning issue was caused by guests who would turn off the unit while at the hospital, then turn it down very low when they returned. Guests are now limited as to how low or high the unit's temperature can be set, which along with creating a less inviting environment for mold growth, will also save the house on energy costs, said Wade.
Kaylor said the new carpet, donated and installed by INVISTA (formerly DuPont) and Tandus Flooring, is made from the same material as wood laminate flooring and will be more durable and stain-resistant than the previous carpeting.
"I'm hoping not to be here when they change it," she said of the hybrid resilient carpeting.
Kaylor said all rooms have now been updated with current technology, including flat screen TVs from RMH national donor Grand Source, and Wi-Fi throughout the house installed last year.
Along with new dressers and nightstands, the new shipment of furniture that arrived at the house last month included desks and chairs for each room, which Kaylor said will allow families to work more easily and comfortably from the house.
Each room also has a new mattress from RMH national donor Tempur-Pedic as well as new bedspreads.
"Our families are loving it," said Kaylor, who lives at the house full-time.
RMH is open to families of patients up to age 21, with eligibility determined by the severity of the patient's condition and how far the family must travel to receive treatment. Priority is given to the critically ill and cancer patients. Families are asked to contribute to the house's operation by making a $10 donation per night or by doing a household chore.