Decorating for the holidays, preparing meals and, oh yes, cleaning out the refrigerator are just a few ways Mary Jane Bedenbaugh passes her time at Columbia’s Ronald McDonald House.
The former Department of Social Service worker has been volunteering for more than two years at the home to provide comfort to the out-of-town families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at area hospitals.
As Ronald McDonald House Charities reaches the midway point of its12th Annual Lights of Hope fundraising campaign, Bedenbaugh talks about her passion for her volunteer work and her love for the families she is able to serve.
What are some of the things that you love most about your volunteer work at the Ronald McDonald House?
Bedenbaugh: “It’s the personal interaction. I love to talk, but I’d rather hear what the other person is saying. It’s a learning experience for me here.”
What have you found that families staying at the house are seeking most?
Bedenbaugh: “I can always feel they need a closeness. Sometimes it does not take a word. You just know that they need a hug. Sometimes they just need to be left alone.”
We understand you often bring your grandchildren with you to volunteer. Can you tell us how that got started and what you hope they’ll take away from the experience?
Bedenbaugh: “It started because I would tell them about what I would do here and the people I meet here. I love for them to see love or caring in action. It’s just a little part of me that I hope will leave an impression with them.”
So what’s one of your favorite things to do when you come to the house?
Bedenbaugh: “Cleaning out the refrigerator is a favorite task of mine. It’s always so full because it does take a lot of food to supply the house. It’s one of the little things. But it has to be done, so I just take the time and do it.”
What do you enjoy most about the other volunteers you work with?
Bedenbaugh: “There are a lot of happy volunteers here. They come here and many of them are still working full time. I’m just amazed at the people who come in. And the more I come the more I wan t to do. It’s a learning experience for me here.”
How do you feel such efforts as the Lights of Hope campaign compliment the volunteer working taking place at the house?
Bedenbaugh: “You have to have that part. You can’t do one without the other.”
So what advice do you offer to others who may be considering volunteering?
Bedenbaugh: “I would say definitely come. You just have to choose to do it. I know that I’ve learned a lot from coming here.”
The Ronald McDonald House Lights of Hope fundraising campaign, which seeks monetary donations to support house’s programs and services, continues through the end of the month. This year’s fundraising goal is $15,000 and for every $1,000 received, a new stripe is being added to a lighthouse sign in front of the home at 2955 Colonial Drive. To donate or for more information, visit www.RMHCofColumbia.org.
Reach Rantin at (803) 771-8306.