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Basic Guidelines:

  1. Meals can be prepared at the Ronald McDonald House or dropped off at this time. However, food must be prepared in commercial cooking establishments such as restaurants, catering services or cafeterias, and then brought in or delivered is acceptable. We cannot accept drop-offs of leftovers from events if containers have been open.
  2. If you would prefer to drop off a meal from a caterer or commercial kitchen, you may do so between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Please have all meals separated into individual, disposable take-away containers.
  3. Please do not bring more than 8 people TOTAL  to the House to prepare and serve the meal.
  4. Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age.
  5. For the welfare of the families we ask that you do not visit if you are coughing, feverish, have a runny nose or have been exposed to a contagious disease.
  6. No substitutions to your group will be allowed less than 2 days prior to your service date.  (In order to complete proper background checks)
  7. All volunteers are required to wear a mask during the entirety of their service for the health and safety of our guests.
  8. All volunteers MUST wash their hands before preparing and handling the food.
  9. Gloves MUST be worn while preparing food. Gloves are located in the Volunteer Kitchen beside ice machine. Please be sure to remove gloves after handling raw meat and put on new gloves to handle food again.
  10. Please do not allow anyone to sit on the counter tops.
  11. All cabinets and drawers in our kitchen are labeled. You might want to take a few minutes to familiarize yourself  before you begin preparing the meal.
  12. Please keep all food and drinks in the kitchen or dining area. Please do not eat or drink in the Family Room or the children’s play area. Food can be taken into the conference room or outside to the tables in the court yard, if the dining room is full.
  13. Meal groups must wash/dry all dishes used in preparing the food. There is dish soap underneath the sink. Dishes may be placed in the dishwasher if space is available.
  14. Approximately 1 hour after the meal is served, condense all food into storage containers and place in House Refrigerator. House Refrigerators are found in the West Wing hallway near lockers.
  15. Place all garbage in trash receptacles (4) that are located in the kitchen/dining area. We appreciate it if groups will dispose of trash in the dumpster before leaving. Please ask staff/volunteer for garbage bags.
  16. Volunteers must NOT:
    • Smoke inside the building. Smoking is only permitted in the designated smoking hut located in the back alley.
    • Give gifts or gratuities to any particular guest (bringing goodies for everyone is fine, bringing a gift for one child is not).
    • Assume responsibility for a guest child.
    • Provide transportation to any guest.
    • Be alone with any guest in his or her room.
    • Engage in inappropriate activity with any guest.
    • Engage in ANY social activity with guest family unless it is a pre-planned, RMHCA sponsored event.
    • Give legal advice or assist families in obtaining services.
    • Enter into a financial or legal agreement including loans or borrowing money with any guest.
    • Impose religious or political beliefs (see below).
    • Post pictures of guests on personal social media accounts (see below).

When are meal times?

Dinner should be ready to serve by 6:00 p.m.

Please arrive with enough time to have everything ready to serve by the above times.

How much food do we prepare?

Dinner: 50 people

Due to the fluctuating schedules of our families going to and from the hospitals, therapy, doctor’s appointments, checking in/out etc., RMHCA cannot estimate or provide a head count for the exact number of families that will be present for your meal. Please do not be discouraged if there is a small turnout, as all leftovers are eaten up quickly!

What do I prepare/bring?

Meals should include: entrée, one or two sides and/or green salad (mixings kept separate), a bread (rolls, toast, etc.) a dessert, and a drink (a few gallons of sweet tea is perfect). Guest families have access to a vending machine here at RMHCA so bringing soft drinks is not necessary. Stumped on what to make? Check out our ideas (PDF)! Keep your meal simple. If guest families don’t recognize it, they won’t eat it. Also, we generally ask that you choose a menu other than pasta with red sauce and tacos (everyone’s first thoughts for a large group). These are very common dishes that our guest families are served and we want to provide them with some variety! Contact the Meal Program Coordinator for meal ideas and to see what can be used from our pantry.

We provide the paper goods but welcome additional donated paper plates, cups, paper towels and utensils. Please refer to our Wish List located on our website for more items.

Is there anything we shouldn’t make or include?

Please avoid fish and other seafood, as well as foods containing any type of nuts.

Details about our Kitchen

Out kitchen has a gas stove, 3 ovens, 2 microwaves, dishwasher, warming drawers, ice tea maker, coffee maker, and an ice machine. It is fully stocked with most of the cookware and utensils that you should need. However, if there is a special piece of equipment you need, please call to find out whether we may have it. If not, please bring your own. There are aprons available for your group to use. They are located in the Volunteer Kitchen Pantry.

The meal should be served from the pass thru window in the Volunteer Kitchen and on the serving island in the East Wing Dining Room.

Arriving at the House/Dropping Off Supplies

If you need to drop off supplies before you park, please come through the driveway on 17th Street and ring the doorbell. This is a secure facility and staff will have to let you in. If need be, there are carts that you are welcome to use. Once you have unloaded, please move your car to a parking space.


Please park in any available public parking space surrounding the Ronald McDonald House, and be prepared to download the Park Mobile App to pay for the metered space if you are here during business hours.

Before you leave…

Please make sure that someone with your group fills out the Volunteer Packet located at the front desk. This is a way for us to process your donation of time and food so that you can be properly thanked.

Talking to Families

Talking, visiting, and eating with the families IS permitted. In fact, families love conversing with our volunteers! When talking with a guest family, DO NOT ask questions about why they are here, their child’s diagnosis, etc. This is an emotional subject that some families may not feel comfortable talking about. Often times, families will choose to tell you about their situation unprompted. If they do so, it is then appropriate for you to engage in conversation about it.


Any information regarding the medical, psychological, social, or economic status of a guest or their personal information is CONFIDENTIAL and is NOT to be disclosed to any person outside the House or to other guest families.


You will encounter people of diverse backgrounds and value systems. Regardless of your own political, religious, and/or world view, you MUST demonstrate respect for all staff, volunteers, guest families and donors. This includes not imposing any political or religious views (see below).


RMHCA is not a faith-based organization. We are an agency that welcomes people of all faiths. Individuals from many congregations and faiths volunteer at RMHCA and their ministry is demonstrated through their kindness, helpfulness and gift of their time and resources.

While speaking with a guest family, showing concern for them and compassion for their pain is appreciated but engaging in prayer services is not appropriate. Telling a guest family that you will remember them in your prayers is a welcome thing, but to facilitate a prayer service is intrusive of their privacy. We ask that you not solicit prayer requests from the guest families, engage in “healing efforts,” conduct sessions of prayer, or hand out any religious materials.

Guest families do not want to disappoint the volunteers nor decline the offer of prayer; therefore we depend upon you to respect their privacy.

Social Media

DO NOT take any pictures of a guest or guest family. If a guest or guest family is in your picture, you are NOT permitted to post it on to your personal social media account(s). If you are a part of a group and that group has a social media page (i.e.: the “Alpha Delta Pi- Samford University” page on Facebook), you are permitted to post pictures of your group.

Some families (but not all) sign a release form for RMHCA to take and post/use for marketing purposes, but not for volunteers to post on their personal pages. We want our environment in the House to be stress-free, and we don’t want to put a volunteer or a family in an awkward position. Feel free to share RMHCA social media posts of guests or guest families to your personal account– as long as it shows that the post came from RMHCA first! We love when our posts are shared with others because it helps expand the reach of our mission. Please contact the Volunteer Coordinator if you have any questions regarding social media.

Group Leader Responsibilities

As the group leader, you are responsible for relaying this information to your group as it is very important that ALL volunteers adhere to these guidelines. Feel free to email it out to them prior to your designated meal date, arrive early on the date of your meal and read over it all with them, etc. and get their acknowledgement of understanding before your designated volunteer time.

Media Consent

We love to take pictures of our volunteers in action, so please read and agree to our media consent below. We may want to use pictures for special media or marketing and that may require each person in your group to sign a media consent form. We will discuss this with you, if needed.

  • On behalf of my volunteer group, I agree and authorize Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama Inc. and its employees, agents and directors to photograph or video tape me and my group while my group and I are visitors at the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham. I/we understand that these images or audio/video may be used to document or promote the work of Ronald McDonald House Charities in various promotional media, including print, radio, social media, television, or the internet.
  • On behalf of my volunteer group, I relinquish all future rights and privileges to these images, negatives, videos, or tapes. This consent will remain in effect unless withdrawn by me in writing and hand delivered or delivered by registered or certified mailed, return receipt requested to the Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Alabama Inc.
  • If you or anyone in your group has an opposition to this media consent, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator prior to your scheduled date.

Group Leader Responsibilities

As the group leader, you are responsible for relaying this information to your group as is is very important that ALL volunteers adhere to these guidelines. Feel free to email it out to them prior to your designated meal date, arrive early on the date of your meal and read over it all with them, etc. and get their acknowledgement of understanding before your volunteer time.

We hope your group will want to participate with our agency within these guidelines. If anyone in your group has an opposition to any one of the above guidelines, please contact the Volunteer Coordinator.

I agree to the above guidelines. What do I do next?

Please fill out our Meals Application and background check.   After your application has been processed, our Volunteer Coordinator will contact you to confirm your desired date (must be at least two weeks after completion of your application), schedule training and answer any questions you may have. Open meal dates may be found on the Meals Calendar.

We will not be hosting volunteer led activities until further notice.


Volunteer Coordinator
Zelma Mae Cable