Central Florida charity begins phased reopening after closing due to COVID-19 pandemic

The charity was closed for months due to safety concerns

ORLANDO, Fla. – Two months ago, the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida faced the difficult decision of closing their houses in Orange County because of COVID-19 but recently, they’ve started the process of welcoming back the families that had to be relocated to local hotels.

“Ronald McDonald is more like staying at home and when I was staying at a hotel I was like, ok I’m actually staying at a hotel. So, it was, you know different than Ronald McDonald.” Jameeka Smith said.

The first time mom has been staying at one of the Orlando houses after she gave birth 13 weeks ahead of her due date.

“It’s been difficult but I’m thankful God has placed you know, places like Winnie Palmer and Ronald McDonald in our support system and it’s made it so much easier,” Smith said.

Her baby girl Anaya has been in the NICU for ten months now--a concerning time for Jameeka.

“At 19 weeks I almost lost my daughter. At 25 my water broke and then I delivered her at 27 five. She was severely premature and from then on we developed other conditions,” Smith said.

She tells News 6 that she’s happy to be back at the Ronald McDonald house close to the Winnie Palmer Hospital for women and babies.

“When we were closed we moved families from the houses into local hotels at no cost to them,” Priya Aboul-Hosn, media relations specialist for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida said. “It was an extremely difficult decision that we had to make as an organization and when we did discover positive cases of COVID in the houses.”

But after the organization saw a decline in positive cases in Orange County, they decided to open back up.

“We’re moving families from the hotels into the houses and we are basically in the first phase of the reopening,” Aboul-Hosn said. “Our first phase entails getting up to a 25 percent capacity at our houses to make sure that we’re following the social distancing guidelines, all the safety protocols, everyone is wearing masks.”

The organization’s cornerstone program provides a home away from home for families with children receiving treatment at hospitals and medical facilities in Orlando.

“If you’re looking for a charity that’s worthy of your donation it would definitely be Ronald McDonald House,” Jameeka said. “This is life-changing for so many people on a level that most people don’t know.”

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Florida is in need of restaurant gift cards.

To make a donation or sponsor a family meal, visit https://www.rmhccf.org/

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