Chamber hears about Morgantown nonprofit

A representative from the Ronald McDonald House charity in Morgantown bragged about the upcoming opening of a new family room at its facility to members of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce Monday.

The room, which should be open by the end of June, will help family members of sick children “alleviate stress by providing an escape just steps away from their child,” said Katie Wertz. “You are not always dealing with the best of circumstances, and we are trying to alleviate some of the stress.”

The room will allow for larger gatherings of a patient’s family to assemble in one area. Wertz said research indicates a child heals faster and better when there is a family presence in the hospital.

Wertz dispelled a myth that the Ronald McDonald House is fully funded by the international restaurant franchise. She said the local organization, which serves patients in the Northern Panhandle and north and central West Virginia, is constantly fundraising to support its activities.

She said area McDonald’s restaurants donate 1 cent from every Happy Meal sold, and the organization recycles pull tabs from soda pop cans for additional funding.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but it can add up pretty quickly for us,” Wertz said. “It seems like it’s something very little, but it means a lot to us.”

The Ronald McDonald House is capable of hosting 16 families overnight on a daily basis, and in 2011, more than 1,800 families were served at the facility located adjacent to Mountaineer Field. To qualify to stay at the house, families must have a patient under the age of 18 at a local medical facility and reside more than 50 miles from Morgantown. The house is filled to capacity 99.7 percent of the time, Wertz said.

During times when the house is booked, the organization offers a hotel referral service and helps families pick up the cost of the overnight stay.

There is also a day-guest program, which allows families living within that 50-mile radius to grab a meal or just rest. The day program is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day.

In other matters, Chamber of Commerce President Sam Nolte announced the Chamber and the Convention and Visitors Bureau were approved for a zoning variance to allow for the offices’ new signage on Main Street.

The Chamber of Commerce also welcomed Don Paco’s restaurant and the Buckhannon-Upshur Farmer’s Market as new members.