Iowa City Ronald McDonald House to renovate kitchen

Memphis Madorin removes cabinets in the kitchen area at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa…

Memphis Madorin removes cabinets in the kitchen area at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City on Wednesday. The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House is renovating and expanding its kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

In about four months, families staying at the Iowa City Ronald McDonald House will be able to use a renovated and expanded kitchen to help feed their loved ones.

The kitchen remodel is one of the last parts of a larger renovation plan for the Ronald McDonald House that has been in the works for about two years.

Instead of a kitchen reminiscent of a high school home economics classroom with small individual pods, the new kitchen is going to have more open space and a separate commercial kitchen so that volunteer groups have their own area to make meals for families.

Executive Director Shannon Greene said she is excited for the kitchen’s expansion and the opportunities it will bring.

“We’re getting a griddle, some convection ovens — pieces of equipment we haven’t had before that will really allow us to expand what we offer for meals … and to cook things quickly and safely. And we’re just super excited about it,” Greene said.

The house keeps the pantry stocked with groceries that families can use to make breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks. Greene said the house has been fortunate enough that community groups such as businesses, churches and fraternities volunteer to make an evening meal for families during the week.

For now a temporary kitchen is set up with a microwave, refrigerator and snacks for families to make quick meals during the renovation.

While the main kitchen is closed, Greene said the house is looking for community support to cater a meal, drop off microwaveable meals, or donate a financial contribution to help feed families staying in the house.

The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House opened its doors in 1985 and has served thousands of families by providing support for those who have a child in medical care. Families from 50 states and 64 countries have stayed at the house free of charge.

Iowa City’s Ronald McDonald House is one of more than 375 McDonald House programs in 45 countries and regions around the world. As an independent American nonprofit organization, its mission is to create, find and support programs that improve the health and well-being of children.

Greene said the goal of the house is to provide a comfortable place for families to stay while a child receives medical care nearby. The average family stay is around 16 days. Families, however, are able to live in the house as long as their child is in care.

“We have free laundry, transportation, (and) we try to think of all the little things like Netflix and toothbrushes, and anything that can help families take care of themselves, to be able to really focus on their child,“ Greene said.

While the house had reduced capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic, Development Director Heather Croskrey said the organization was able to take advantage of that time and install new flooring and paint for the guest bedrooms.

“It definitely has been a long process,” Greene said. “Our board has been very supportive and recognizes that we always want to do the best we can for the families we serve.”

Everyone is excited about the end result, according to Greene.

“Our contractors have been great to work with,” she said. “Everybody really respects that this isn’t just a business. This is someone’s home.”

In the long-run, Greene said the organization will explore an expansion since the house is always full. The house can host 31 families, but Greene said there still is a waitlist with five to 10 families per day needing a place to stay.

“We think there’s gonna come a day soon where I think we want to explore expanding and adding additional rooms because we know there’s a need,” Greene said. “One of the hardest parts of our job is when we’re full and not being able to have a family come stay with us.”

Kevin Graham removes cabinets in the kitchen area Wednesday at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City. The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House is renovating and expanding their kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Kevin Graham removes cabinets in the kitchen area at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City on Wednesday. The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House is renovating and expanding their kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Kevin Graham removes cabinets in the kitchen area at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City on Wednesday. The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House is renovating and expanding their kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Kevin Graham removes cabinets in the kitchen area at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City on Wednesday. The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House is renovating and expanding their kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Crews work to remove the brick exterior walls at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City on Wednesday. The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House is renovating and expanding its kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. The windows in the foreground will eventually be replaced with doors after the footprint of the building is expanded as part of the project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Crews work to remove the brick exterior walls at the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City on Wednesday. The Iowa City Ronald McDonald House is renovating and expanding their kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. The windows in the foreground will eventually be replaced with doors after the footprint of the building is expanded as part of the project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

The Ronald McDonald House, 730 Hawkins Dr., Iowa City. The house is renovating and expanding its kitchen as part of a bigger remodel project. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)