“Pop-It and Drop-it” for The Ronald McDonald House


Alyssa Ruggles and Sarah Garcia

From November 5th to the 16th, the National Junior Honor Society is collecting pop-tops for the Ronald McDonald House. All of the pop-tops collected will be sent to the Ronald McDonald house where volunteers and employees will store them in giant recycling bins.

Every so often the bins are taken to the recycling center to be weighed. The weight of the pop-tops determines how much the Ronald McDonald House will earn based on the current rate for aluminum. The money made from the pop-tops goes towards paying the Ronald McDonald House’s energy and utility costs.

“Businesses, families and individuals from all over the Jacksonville area will collect pop-tops throughout the year and bring them to us. Most of the people gathering pop-tops for the House have actually stayed in one of our locations and want to give back,” expounds Holly, a RMH volunteer.

Holly started volunteering two years ago in hopes to give back to the people who had helped her during her hardships. Soon after Holly had given birth, twenty-two years ago, her baby became very sick and had to stay in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Holly was understandably under a lot of stress and was offered to stay at a Ronald McDonald House. Holly recalls, “The House gave me a supportive place to stay. I met people that would encourage me to stay strong and keep fighting for my daughter even when things didn’t look so good. I’m still friends with many of them today.”

The Ronald McDonald House is able to host people like Holly because of their partnerships with the local communities. The RMH is a non-profit organization and doesn’t get any money from the government. McDonald’s assists with funding in a small way, but this money barely makes a difference. As a result, all of the furniture, décor, and food at the House have been donated by kind civilians from the area. Guests are asked for a small $20 per night, but some can’t even afford that, so their fee is waived. The Ronald McDonald House is able to hold 53 families at one time with four people in each room. Steffanie Harling clarified, “We usually end up having 1100 families stay with us over the year.”

The Ronald McDonald House in Jacksonville was founded in November, 1988; 14 years after the opening of the original Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. It opened across from the University Hospital in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville House initially only had ten bedrooms. It is one of more than 350 Houses within 38 countries.

When pediatric health care became more concentrated in the Southbank area of Jacksonville, Ronald McDonald House Charities decided to build a House there. In November 2001 a brand new Ronald McDonald House was completed, this time with 20 bedrooms. July 2004 marked the addition of ten new bedrooms to the Southbank House. The Jacksonville House has helped more 33,000 families since 1988. Two years ago Ronald McDonald House Charities made a $12.5 million renovation which helped them meet the increased need in services. More kitchens, a dining room, laundry facilities, play areas, a rooftop garden, and 23 new rooms were added to the Jacksonville house. These added areas helped create a home away from home, as well as creating emotional connections with other families staying there. It also helped the House go beyond the basic expectations and make patients’ families’ lives easier.

A generous donation from Mary Virginia and the late C. Herman Terry enable the Ronald McDonald Family Room was added on the fifth floor of Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital in 1993.  15 years later the room was renovated and moved to the third floor. Again, thanks to the donations of Mary Virginia Terry. This third floor location makes the room immediately accessible outside of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Donating pop-tops can help keep the Jacksonville House running. Many families are being helped by this great organization. Donating money at McDonald’s helps support Ronald McDonald House Charities but volunteering time can also cause an impact.

Volunteers from 13-15 have to be accompanied by a guardian. Anyone under 13 can’t volunteer for health reasons. Volunteers must pass a background check and go to a volunteer orientation. In addition to all this volunteers have to make a one-year commitment. Different volunteer opportunities include making meals, fixing up the House, and spending time with the children. They accept many different kinds of donations. Including the pop-tops, they also collect teddy bears that comply with ASTM F963, meaning they cannot have any buttons, zippers, rhinestones, metal or vinyl snaps, closures or appliqués. The Ronald McDonald House has a wish list and an Amazon Smile Wish List, for people to purchase specific items. Some of these items are laundry detergent, bottled water, snacks, and paper towels.

If you want to help your community, the Ronald McDonald House is a great place to start because every donation serves its purpose and goes directly to families in need.