published Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Ronald McDonald House reopening this week

  • photo
    Margaret Anne Cox speaks about food donated to the pantry at the Chattanooga's Ronald McDonald House as they prepare to reopen after closing in August due to mold.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

Fresh teal paint, new carpet, new beds and new TVs will greet families when they return this week to the renovated Ronald McDonald House.

The 26-bedroom house, which provides a home away from home for families whose children are being treated at local hospitals, closed in August after mold was found in four rooms.

"We are looking forward to being open again. It's been hard on the families since we closed," Executive Director Jane Kaylor said Tuesday as she gave a tour of the newly furnished bedrooms.

Check-ins will begin Thursday, with full operation resuming Friday.

All renovations follow guidelines for the Tennessee Valley Authority's Energy Right Program, Kaylor said.

The mold problem was only in a few rooms, but Kaylor said the decision was made to renovate all the bedrooms in the 21-year-old house. Workers stripped off wallpaper, replaced drywall with a mold-resistant type of material and put in new carpet.

The bedrooms got new beds, and other new furniture is due to arrive in March. As part of the renovations, all the rooms now will have a desk and office chair for families who want to telecommute while staying near their children, Kaylor said.

The teen lounge room also has additional computers and new pool and foosball tables.

The renovations cost about $250,000 and were covered by private donations and grants, including one from the national Ronald McDonald House.

On Tuesday, contractors and staff made final changes -- hanging pictures on walls, stocking the pantry with food and making checks on bedding.

Margaret Anne Cox, who has volunteered and worked at the house since before it opened in 1990, gathered coffee and other items from the downstairs storeroom to stock the kitchen pantry on the first floor. All food items are donated.

"It's a fun place to be and we've missed our families," the 70-year-old Cox said. "It can be sad sometimes, but it can be exciting, too."

The 26 rooms usually stay full, Kaylor said, with about 600 families staying there every year. Most of the families have babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, she said.

Allen and Thandi Nichols, from Cookeville, Tenn., have been counting the days until the Ronald McDonald House reopens.

Thandi was admitted to Erlanger hospital in early November after pregnancy complications. Their twins, Elijah and Aadiya, were born at 27 weeks on Nov. 20.

The twins have been doing well and soon will be able to be out of their incubators, Allen Nichols said Tuesday. But the cost of staying in Chattanooga and driving back and forth from Cookeville -- about 200 miles round-trip -- has strained the family's resources.

"Its been a difficult couple of months," Nichols said. "Because we've had to drive back and forth, Thandi hasn't been able to spend as much time with the twins. It's going to help a lot once the Ronald McDonald House opens."

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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