Volunteer Spotlight: Coffee Cart

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we’re posting about a volunteer program you may not know about – our Coffee Hour with Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Every other Wednesday at 3pm, regular RMHC volunteers Steve & Ann Moll take the Frog Elevator to the 6th floor of Seattle Children’s Hospital, where they greet anyone who wants to come by the Ronald McDonald House’s coffee cart for a snack, a break, and some comfort. Retired RNs, the pair love to serve others- you can see it in the care they take when stirring up a cup of cocoa and adding a to-go lid to a cup for a busy mom who’s just stopped by for a quick bite of a brownie. You can also see it in the way they greet everyone, inquiring about how their day is going. It’s these small gestures – coffee, cookies, someone to listen – that mean the most to stressed caregivers with a child in the hospital. “It’s so gratifying to see a smile on someone’s face when I’m volunteering,” Steve explains. “I’m serving these people in the hospital, but really, they’re serving me.”

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Steve and Ann at Coffee Hour

The Ronald McDonald House has been providing a coffee  hour for Seattle Children’s Hospital since 2012. With a small but dedicated group of volunteers (Steve, Ann, and Eila), RMHC is able to serve about 30 people in an hour in the hospital’s Family Resource Center every week. It’s a special time when parents and caregivers at the hospital get to care for themselves, get away from it all, or relax and recharge while they combat the unimaginable challenges of having a child in the hospital with a serious illness. “Sometimes, the people who visit us just want to take a break from everything,” says Eila. “It’s a program that you can tell people really appreciate.” Everyone at the hospital is welcome to come to the coffee hour, not just RMHC guests. It’s just another way that RMHC brings comfort to those who need it most.

Judy Adams, Manager of Volunteer Services, says that the program Children’s has been very fulfilling for volunteers. “The coffee hour program at Seattle Children’s has proved to serve a need in the community, while being a very rewarding experience for our volunteers. We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with the Hospital in providing this to families,” she notes.

Steve and Ann also make a special trip to Children’s Infusion unit, where many kids get their chemotherapy treatments or other medicines. “Some of these kids are so spirited and courageous, it’s really amazing.” Steve says. “Last week, I met a little girl returning from a short walk, pushing along her IV pole. She showed me where she’d last gotten an infusion – which was healing up and on ice – but the staff had put a big pink bow around it. She was really excited, because it matched the pink outfit she was wearing. It’s these kinds of heartwarming moments that make my week. I feel privileged to come and serve the families here.”

Being a volunteer in the coffee cart program is not a large time investment – just a few hours every two weeks, but it is something that Steve, Ann, and Eila say is immensely gratifying. “Ann and I are both retired nurses, but I mostly took care of adults in my professional career,” says Steve. “I’d have to say that I get more time to apply the art of nursing – not the science – in my volunteer work here.  There’s a healing that hopefully takes place during that interpersonal exchange, no matter how brief. Ann and I get a chance to connect with folks being served at this amazing care facility from all corners of the world.”

Eila agrees that this is a special program, recounting a time she spoke to a woman through a translator at coffee hour. “She was from outside of the States, and her baby had been born with its organs outside the body. It was amazing to share with her that my friend had faced the exact same situation – and that her baby was now a healthy 28 year old man!”

When asked what snack people like the most, volunteer Steve has to admit that everyone loves the individual packets of Milano cookies. “Cocoa and cider are really popular too,” he notes. “It’s nice to be able to offer parents something other than coffee, since they’ve probably been drinking coffee all day long already.” The Ronald McDonald House pays for all of the coffee cart supplies out of pocket – and would love your help to keep this program running for the more than 1500 people it serves a year. “To anyone who has any doubts about contributing to the coffee cart project, I would say just come here for five minutes and you can see the impact it has on families,” says Steve. You can help by donating any amount at www.rmhcseattle.org/coffeecart.

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At Ronald McDonald House Charities of Western Washington & Alaska, we support seriously ill children and their families. At the Seattle House, we provide a "home-away-from-home" to help families through a difficult time. We also provide a van service for families staying in Anchorage while their children receive medical care. Our IRS tax number or EIN is: 91-1061043.

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