The University Record, September 25, 1995

Volunteers are ‘heart of the operation’ at Ronald McDonald House

By Rebecca A. Doyle

When you walk in the door, it looks like the reception room at any business, school or small hotel. There is a gift shop, registration desk and waiting area.

But farther down the hall are a large playroom, indoor garden, kitchen, dining area and living room complete with piano and fireplace.

This is where Adeana Carey and her husband Leo have spent more than 350 Sunday mornings.

“Other people go to church on Sunday morning,” Carey says. “We come here.”

“Here” is Ronald McDonald House, where behind other doors on other floors up to 29 families with seriously ill children stay for anywhere from one night to several months. The Careys’ Sunday morning three-hour shifts are spent greeting new arrivals to Ronald McDonald House, registering them and “just talking.” In cool weather, Carey puts her talents to use in the kitchen, making a steaming pot of soup for volunteers, staff members and families staying at the house.

“The pantry is really well stocked by food-gathering organizations, but I always bring my own bay leaf,” she says with a smile. “I can’t make soup without a bay leaf.”

Ronald McDonald House celebrated its 10th anniversary this fall, and the Careys celebrated their own 10th anniversary of volunteer activity for the house.

Carey, a secretary in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Medical School, says that she and her husband always “get more than they give” from their volunteer activities.

“We were just sitting around the house, either watching television or reading, and it just was such a waste of time,” she says. “We decided we needed to do something else.”

At first, the 36-mile drive to Ann Arbor seemed too far, but Leo convinced Carey to attend the first volunteer meeting after watching baseball player Lance Parrish make a special plea on television for volunteers.

They were the first of more than 100 current volunteers—about 20 of them students—who spend time at Ronald McDonald House, a figure that has grown from 50 when the house first opened and volunteers worked every other week instead of once a month.

“The operation of the House depends on our volunteers,” says director David McDowell. “We could not run the House without them. They are the heart of our operation.”

Last year, Ronald McDonald House was included for the first time on the list of non-funded United Way agencies. The resulting $26,000 in designated funds represents approximately 9 percent of the budget for operation of the House, McDowell says.

Although the agency does not receive undesignated dollars, donors can ask that their United Way contribution go to Ronald McDonald House. This year’s University of Michigan United Way campaign lists 60 funded agencies that receive both designated and undesignated funds, and 54 non-funded agencies that receive only donor-designated funds.

Ronald McDonald House usually is filled to capacity and has a waiting list. “It is unfortunate that there is such a need for a place like this,” Carey says. That there are so many children who are seriously ill, waiting for transplants or who need long-term outpatient care could be depressing to volunteers like the Careys, who have three children and six grandchildren. But the Careys say that it is important to them to “give back something because we have been so lucky” with their own family’s health.

The U-M’s United Way campaign for $1 million-plus runs through October. Anyone with questions about the U-M campaign can send e-mail to