TAMPA — When Christie Barnes’ son was a baby he had an illness that required multiple hospitalizations.
“I spent many, many nights trying to sleep in the recliner chair in his (hospital) room, eating snacks rather than meals and wondering where and when I was going to get a shower,” she said.
Fortunately Barnes’ son outgrew his illness — but the memories of that difficult time remain and inspired her to join a group of New Tampa Junior Woman’s Club members who were planning to prepare a meal for guests at the Ronald McDonald House in Tampa.
For more than 35 years the house has been a home-away-from-home to thousands of parents whose sick children are being treated at Tampa General Hospital and other area health care centers.
They generally spend their days with their ill youngsters and return to the home in the evening for some rest and to enjoy a dinner purchased or prepared in house primarily by service organizations within the community.
“If there is something I can do to alleviate the stress of another parent with a sick or injured child, I am happy to help,” said Barnes, who recently became a member of the women’s club. She said she also joined because she enjoys volunteering and being involved in the community.
She joined the organization’s President Margaret Andrade, Jennifer Lee, Candice Postel, April Simons and Dee Gerber, the event’s chairwoman. A menu for 30 was planned, shopped for and all the items were delivered, one recent Sunday, to the Ronald McDonald House.
The dinner consisted of what Gerber described as a copycat version of Outback Steakhouse’s Alice Springs Chicken with chopped bacon and grated cheddar and jack cheeses, steamed broccoli, sweet potato fries, sea salt potato wedges, rolls and strawberry shortcake. It was prepared on the premises, a requirement unless meals are pre-cooked and brought in from other restaurants.
“I stepped up because I tend to centralize my volunteering to revolve around children,” said Gerber, who noted she has children and grandchildren of her own.
While she and the others didn’t receive instant gratification from all the parents staying there — since most guests were with their children during the time they were there — the satisfaction they gained was knowing the meal they fixed was for a good cause.
Andrade, who noted it was an undertaking club members paid for and one they’ve done in the past, was grateful to the gals who were part the recent effort.
“It means a lot when members volunteer because we all lead busy lives,” she said. “The project required a full Sunday afternoon, a time commonly spent with family or relaxing before the next work week.”