COVID-19 leads to operational changes at Ronald McDonald House of Durham

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Local organizations that rely on volunteers are taking a huge hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CBS 17’s Laura Smith caught up with the Ronald McDonald House of Durham to see how they are doing.

RELATED: Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

Executive director Osie Osterkamp said they had to make significant changes in order to keep families at the house safe, but are determined to continue to support each family with housing and meals.

“We are being a lot more stringent on social distancing, we are cleaning a lot more deeper, we are washing our hands a whole lot more,” said Osterkamp.

About 8,500 volunteers help out each year at the Ronald McDonald House of Durham. Right now, not one volunteer is allowed on-site to help because of the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had to put a pause on the hugs that we normally give in the hallways and the high fives and stuff, when we hear good news, but the smiles are still there and the gratitude of our guest families are still there, and the commitment of our incredible team is still here as well,” said Osterkamp.

Staff recently played Bingo over the intercom.

“Everybody in the world is getting a little bit of a glimpse into what our guest families go through every single day,” Osterkamp said. “We go around. We’re wondering what’s going to happen next. Wondering if we are going to get bad news.”

Volunteers have really stepped up to help the house continue its mission.

“The community has risen and they are bringing meals from areas restaurants already prepared, which is helping our local restaurant economy which is great and then we meet them at the door, we sanitize it and bring it in and put it in individual containers,” said Osterkamp.

People are calling daily asking how they can help.

Osterkamp said they update needs each day on their website. You can also order food at a local McDonald’s and ask them to round up your order by a dollar. Money raised will be donated to local houses.

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