By: guest blogger Denise M., Springfield Member Center Manager

I have worked for CEFCU for nearly 20 years and I feel very fortunate and thankful to work for an organization that cares about the people in our community. My colleagues and I were asked to tell about our experiences while volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House Charities® (RMHC) – Meals from the Heart Program. I will share more on that in just a moment. But first, I’d like to share our purpose, why we choose to volunteer with RMHC. Like many of you, I had heard of the Ronald McDonald House before but did not know a lot about what they did. I associated it with the fast food restaurant and didn’t give it much more thought. That was until a few years back. CEFCU was a sponsor and partnered with the RMHC in Springfield. Some of us had the opportunity to attend the grand opening and learn more about this wonderful organization. Since then, we have volunteered several times at the RMHC. We each have our own personal stories or reasons to volunteer. I’d like to take a minute to share my story.  

My family refers to her as our little “Miracle before Christmas”.  My niece, Gianna was my family’s special Christmas gift, named for Saint Gianna.  My sister found out early on in her pregnancy that her baby was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, a condition that is not compatible with life and usually fatal before birth. Throughout her pregnancy, she reliably prayed, researched, planned, and prayed some more. You see, my sister wanted to give her child the opportunity to experience life and love. We knew her precious sweet baby would come early. We didn’t know how much time, if any, we would have with her. At the time, we didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl. Then, before we knew it (and much too soon) the delivery was scheduled. It felt like a mad dash! Everyone had to get to Columbus. For most of us, that meant traveling a great distance but that did not matter. We all packed our bags and went to welcome our newest family member into the world. The time was upon us and everyone (grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc.) gathered at the hospital to show their support and love. Gianna was born without the ability to breath. Her family waited nervously in the next room. The doctors and nurses moved quickly.  They knew they didn’t have much time. The priest was in the delivery room and quickly poured the Holy water over Gianna’s head and baptized her “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.  At the very moment the Holy water washed over her face our miracle happened. Gianna took her first breath and her heart rate stabilized. She fought (and won) to survive to meet her family.  Although brief, we were blessed with the gift of time with Gianna, a mere 47 hours. Time which surpassed all odds. Our Little “Miracle before Christmas” was a blessing to her family. Looking back, I realize my family was fortunate. We had local family and friends and had the support system we needed during those rough times.

When my coworkers and I think of families that have young children in the hospital, whether that means being in the hospital for long periods of time or being several miles away from the comfort and support of home, we just wanted to find a way to help. The families do not have time to stop to think about food or where they are going to sleep. These families need someone to take care of those simple necessities for them so they can focus on the health and well-being of their child. This is where the RMHC steps in to provide support to the families in need. Through the RMHC, we can help those going through their own crisis situation. We don’t have to give lots of money. We can make a difference in someone’s life with a little bit of food and our time. The Meals from the Heart program brings a group of volunteers together to cook a nutritious and warm meal for the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The opportunities that CEFCU staff has been given to volunteer for this program have been extremely rewarding and we look forward to cooking the next meal together.

RMHC has given us the outlet to help spread hope, joy, and love to those struggling in our community. We are proud of CEFCU’s sponsorship of the RMHC of Central Illinois and grateful to have the opportunity to provide a little bit of comfort to those that might need it.