Cynthia’s volunteer story

A caucasian woman sits at a computer desk. She has her hair pinned up in a bun.

The following is a conversation between RMHCA and House Helper Volunteer, Cynthia Stewart. The interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Cynthia and I grew up in Birmingham. After retiring from teaching theater management at Ithaca College in upstate New York, I moved back to the Southeast to be closer to family.

Why were you drawn to volunteering?

When I retired and I moved to Georgia to be around my grandson. He went off to college and I decided to move back to Birmingham, my hometown. The first year I was here, I was busy with my house. I love renovating houses so once I had it under control, I wanted to do something that would be useful and helpful.

I had previously worked with Kate Cleveland, the Chief Development Officer, and knew she was at RMHCA currently. And I thought, ‘Aha, that is something that is a very worthwhile organization. If they can use a volunteer, that’s something I would enjoy.’”

Did you know about RMHC’s mission before you volunteered?

I knew they existed but I really had no idea how they operated. The fact that this is the 6th one in the whole world and now there are more than 400, that’s incredible. The more I read about what RMHC does – that is, support families – I thought, ‘Yes, this is what I want to be involved with!’

How does volunteering impact you?

My first son was a preemie. He weighed 4 pounds and 3 ounces and stayed in the hospital for two months. When Kate told me that a large percentage of the guest families are here because they have premature babies, I can kind of relate in that respect.

This was 55 years ago and there was really no support back then. Of course, my husband and I had the support of all the grandparents, but they were in Birmingham and we were in Auburn.

Once I went home from the hospital and I could drive again, I could go see my son. I wasn’t able to hold him for a while though and eventually the doctors said he was big enough and I could start holding and feeding him myself.

There was not anything close to what the Ronald McDonald House is so I think it’s incredibly wonderful for these families. They’re in a strange city and they’ve got something really heavy on their heads right now. And to have somewhere that they can stay that is right across the street from the hospitals; where there’s food provided; it’s just a wonderful organization and I’m so glad I read more about it. And that they saw fit to let me come volunteer.

What is your favorite contribution so far?

It’s rewarding to me to see all the donations of food items and to restock the family kitchens because that means parents don’t have to worry. When you have someone in the hospital, you could be up in the middle of the night and with all of these donations, parents can still find a snack or cook a meal.

Anything else someone should know about volunteering?

There’s all kinds of things that can be done. There’s something that almost anybody could find rewarding to do!

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