COLUMBIA – The new Ronald McDonald House is halfway there.
The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mid-Missouri completed phase one of its two-phase plan to build a house at its new location. Wednesday, the charity hosted a sneak peek tour and a supply drive, funded by Veterans United Home Loans, to mark the milestone.
The new house, at 3501 Lansing Ave., is behind the MU Women's and Children's Hospital. Phase one of its construction included the exterior of the house, including the shell and skeleton, parking lot, and dining room patio. In phase two, the inside of the house will be completed and prepared for move-in.
The new location is a big improvement for the families that will be staying there. Keri Simon, who serves on the Board of Directors of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mid-Missouri and is Executive Director at the Women's and Children's Hospital, emphasized the importance of having the house so close to the hospital and getting it opened as soon as possible.
"From the hospital's perspective, it can't be soon enough," Simon said. "I don't know if we could have had a better setting."
The current Ronald McDonald House is located off Stadium Boulevard near its intersection with Monk Drive. Only nine families can stay there since a sump pump overflow damaged the basement in July 2010. Inefficient heating and cooling made the third floor uninhabitable in July 2010.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Mid-Missouri built the house on Stadium Boulevard in 1983. According to its website, it has housed more than 25,000 families. The charity's mission is to provide housing for families whose children are undergoing treatment at local hospitals. Guests are invited to make a $15 donation per night, but no payment is required.
Employees of Veterans United passed pillows, pots and pans, candles and small appliances down a human chain and inside a donation room in the new facility Wednesday morning. The company has pledged to donate $50,000 over the next two years toward the new facility.
The new house will have 18 bedrooms, each with two queen-size beds and a private bathroom, and an extended-stay apartment. The floor plan includes two laundry rooms for both floors, a family room, guest and house pantries, and a dining room with an adjacent covered patio.
The charity has raised around $1.7 million but still needs more than $900,000 to reach the $2.6 million goal.
One way the charity is raising money is by allowing people who donate $25,000 or more to have their name — or a business's name — attached to a bedroom. Different donations are available for different parts of the house, such as stairwells and family rooms.
The charity hopes to have the new house completed by the beginning of 2014, but it depends upon how quickly the money is raised.
"We want to move forward as quickly as we can, but as prudently as we need to because we want to get families into the house in a timely manner," Terri Gray, director of the capital campaign, said.
Once the new house is completed and open to families, the old house and land will be returned to MU. The fate of the old house is uncertain.
The new house has a ground lease from MU for 50 years that has been paid in full for a minimal cost, said Keith Schawo, the President of the Board of Directors for the charity.
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