Checking in with our ‘House’-keepers

Since mid-March, the Ronald McDonald House in Albany has been mostly empty. Guest families are staying in hotels, with costs covered by RMHC-CR, to help prevent exposure and the spread of COVID-19. Still a few very important people have been here all along…

Our Housekeepers haven’t stopped. They’ve continued their essential work and kept our House clean and ready to welcome families again soon. As we prepare to start the first phase of our gradual reopening, we checked in with two of them about what work has been like during the pandemic.

Woman wearing mask stands in kitchen with cleaning supplies

Joanne Huba originally joined the RMHC-CR family as a volunteer Housewarmer. On Thursday night shifts with her sister, Joanne would help keep the House clean, comfortable, and well-supplied for our guests. After she retired from her job with the state, she joined our staff as a part-time Housekeeper.

Today, Joanne works three days a week taking care of all 25 guest rooms at the Ronald McDonald House. With families in hotels because of the coronavirus, Joanne says she’s had time to do some serious organizing. “It’s weird and so quiet with no guests,” she says. “It has given us time for things we don’t normally get to do.” Those things include cleaning and rearranging every shelf and cabinet in the huge RMH kitchen! “I think important that we’ve been here even with families staying elsewhere so we could do this really thorough clean.”

Heather Dumond‘s first experience with RMHC-CR came back in 2012. She was pregnant at the time and stayed as a guest at the House when her daughter was born nine weeks premature with gastroschisis. Though she moved out once her daughter was healthy, she stayed in the Albany area and remained in close contact with staff at the House. When a new housekeeping job opened in 2018, she jumped at the opportunity to come back as a part of the team.

Woman wearing mask and gloves cleans ledge in hallway

“This is my safe place,” she says. “This is my home and these people are my family.”

In addition to housekeeping, Heather handles much of the maintenance both inside and outside the House. She explains that with no one living here, it’s been possible to complete extra maintenance on everything from kitchen floors to common areas to guest bedrooms and bathrooms.

Though this time has been peaceful and productive, Joanne and Heather miss the families that normally fill this space. “It will be great to have families back in the House,” Joanne says. “We all just need to work together to keep each other safe.”

That’s precisely the plan as we prepare to start welcoming families back to the Ronald McDonald House next week. We’ve put new guidelines in place to ensure everyone’s health and well-being, and we’re conducting extensive training for all of our staff.

Since we’ll only be able to accept a limited number of families in the House at first, we will continue to provide hotel accommodations and other resources for families whose children are receiving medical care nearby. To help us keep supporting children and their families in creative, new ways, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, please visit rmhcofalbany.org.