Saturday, September 11, 2010

Confessions of a Night Manager, Volume One

For those of you who may not have known us back in the day... we lived from June 2003-January 2007 at the Ronald McDonald House of Winston-Salem.  I'll admit, when my friend Laura emailed me the job posting for Night Manager, I wasn't so sure.  True: we needed a place to be where we were serving.  True: we needed a place to be where we could get in better financial shape.  But with the exception of what my friend Amelia had told me while we played Bunko, I knew very little about the RMH.  And now I would give up an adorable house in Ardmore to LIVE there?  Seriously?  But something checked in my spirit, so I sent in an application, went for some interviews, and got the job.  Night Manager.  At the RMH.  What the junk.

What that meant was this: Dan and I moved into the apartment downstairs at the RMH to serve as kind of the RA's of the house.  I worked in the office Sunday-Thursday from 5:30-8:00pm doing office stuff, then from 8:00pm-8:00am we were "on call" in case of emergency.  "Emergency" meant everything from evacuating the house when the fire alarm went off (and wouldn't stop going off for 2 hours) with a house full of guests- half of those not speaking English.  It meant answering our door 5 days after Elizabeth was born to find a family in crisis who needed us as much as my newborn did.  It meant answering the door at 2 in the morning when the Coke Machine took someone's money and didn't give them a Coke... yep, and that was when the sign went up on the door saying "Stop!  Only knock if this is a real emergency."  Each night I made sure the house was properly shut down for the evening, and did rounds as were necessary.

What it also meant was 3 and a half years of loving people when they were most vulnerable.  Teenage girls who had just become moms... and moms of preemies at that.  Parents whose son had just had his leg amputated... and continued to come back for check-ups and who wanted to talk basketball with Dan.  Talking to a mom one night (during the MTV VMAs, actually) who was sobbing asking why God would make some little ones suffer.  Seeing a mom with a 4 day old baby collapse when she got deemed a "cancer family"... her 3 year old was diagnosed with leukemia at noon the day her brand-new baby was born.  And the cool thing?  That newborn baby was the only one who was a perfect bone marrow match to be a donor for his older brother.  We also got to play Santa Claus for families on Christmas Eve... we got to have a picture taken with Ronald and tell him we were pregnant (sadly, that ended up being one of our miscarriages) and have him tell us "congrats on the Little McNugget!"... we had story after story of amazing moments.  Hard ones, sad ones, amazing ones.

And today, I got to go back.  Granted, I've been back multiple times over the last 4 years.  But today was different- today I got a sneak preview of the new house.  When we lived there, the house served 17 families.  Now, it will be able to house 35.  Seriously.  What the junk.  The house is spectacular.  It's beautiful.  It's perfectly decorated.  I teared up the entire time I was given the tour.

But the nuances I saw were ones that made me thrilled... not as a general "visitor" of the house... but as the old Night Manager.

A trash and recycling island... complete with "normal" sized bags that are actually functional to take out.  The old bins were so large that as they got full it was too cumbersome to take out.

Lockers for the families to put their grocery items in... so no one can accuse another of stealing their Mountain Dew.  Not that that ever happened... but if it did... I'm just sayin'....

A beautiful spot for Volunteers to come and get their nametags and leave their things... 
not having to do this in Abby's office like they used to....

Oh, sweet magical work room.  Complete with shelving, security monitors, and copier.  
Not to be confused with the old copier CLOSET which barely held, well, the copier.

A COT CLOSET.  Seriously.  Beautiful.  Rather than trying to remember which room had the extra cots... and having to enter those rooms to find them... 

Storage.  Beautiful storage.

AN ICE MACHINE.  (I'm misty-eyed just looking at it.)

While this might look like Chacy's office... it's not.  It's now Chacy's counseling area... 
SEPARATE from her office.  Seriously... it's the little things.

A comfy chair... and new breastpump.  In the LACTATION ROOM... no longer the "breastpump room".

Unreal.  The house seems to be ready to go... perfectly situated for all the families that will benefit from it.  And do the above touches make it NECESSARY to care for families who have children in the hospital?  Maybe, maybe not.  What they do allow is for the staff to function easier, to not trip over each other, and to provide the touches that make staying at the RMH so special... so different from a hotel.

Can't get the picture of what the house looks like from my random finds?  Well, I'll show you some of the other treats...

Gorgeous bedrooms.  Seriously, gorgeous.  
(And all of us commented that our rooms at home never quite look so put together.)

Beautiful common spaces.
(This room is where we watched the ball drop on New Years Eve, 2006... just before we moved out. 
 It looks a lot prettier now... and it was pretty then!)

And on a personal note...
I got sucked in to reading the name plates on the doors.  So many of them were given in honor of donors who have huge hearts for the RMH.  So many were names of people I never met, but knew their kindness toward the House through the years.  Some from from families I met... and this one was a family I sat with just moments after their precious son lost his battle to cancer.

These are glimpses of why I will always love the RMH.  We left when Elizabeth needed me as her Night Manager a little more urgently than I was able to provide both for her and the families of the RMH.  Now as she gets older, I want her to be involved with the House where she was born.  I want her to see what it's like to get to touch families who need a little more love during tough times.  And I want her to know some of the people who I love so much.

It truly is The House That Love Built.
(some of my fellow staff members from Back In The Day... I'll be celebrating with them and the rest of the staff at the Ribbon Cutting and Open House Sunday, Sept 12, 3-5pm.  419 S. Hawthorne Road.)


Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

It was so nice to meet you today! I did not realize how connected you were to RMH while we were all together for the tour. I "get" it now! Your post here is very touching. The house really is amazing and so are all the people who make it happen.

beckyheel said...

thanks, Lisa. glad to know you didn't think I was too nuts when I got so excited about the random things. :)

LaVenture's Adventures said...

This is cool. I had no idea you did this! We need to drink coffee more often. :-)

KL said...

Great post Becky! It was neat to see your point of view from having worked there, you post and pictures are so different than mine! I suppose that's the great thing about a blogger tour, lots of eyes (and cameras :) Thanks for sharing your story, it makes the house even more wonderful. PS-You daughter is beautiful!


ChacyS said...

Wonderful blog post, Becky. It made me tear up. It is both funny and touching that you got excited about the very things our staff does - it is truly the little (and big) things combined that have made the new addition and renovations thrilling. Thanks for your years of service and for being such a loyal friend still to our families and staff!

Laura said...

Becky- Thank you for your great post about the House. Your perspective is so special and all of the staff love the pictures!!!

It was wonderful to meet you :)

-Laura @ RMH