The Ronald McDonald House House Charities Northeast Louisiana is expected to relocate from its facility on South Third Street to the fourth floor of St. Francis Medical Center in downtown Monroe, possibly by early 2022.

During a news conference Tuesday at the hospital’s downtown Monroe campus, hospital officials and Ronald McDonald House executive director Georgia Street announced their plans for the “House within a Hospital” project.

The project entails the renovation of some 4,740 feet on the hospital’s fourth floor to provide temporary living accommodations for families of children, 21 and under, who are receiving medical treatment.

According to Street, the “House within a Hospital” project was like “coming back home” since St. Francis was one of the original sponsors for the Ronald McDonald House in the late 1980s.

“St. Francis Medical Center’s mission is to care for those most in need and like the Ronald McDonald House, we recognize that parents dealing with medical crises involving children are frightening, emotional and can have a tremendous impact on the entire family,” said Kristin Wolkart, President of St. Francis Medical Center. “This partnership will allow us to bring a sense of home to the families of our infants, premature babies, and children and help to ease some of their burdens.”

During Tuesday’s news conference, Cindy Hendrix, of Bastrop, commended St. Francis and the Ronald McDonald House for their partnership because that same collaboration allowed her, 33 years ago, to stay close to her son, Jonathan, who was born with Down Syndrome and a heart murmur.

“We had a long stay,” Hendrix said. “What a comfort it was to know I could be close to my little boy while he received treatment.”

Jonathan Hendrix was with his mother at the news conference and expressed his gratitude as well. He’s also turning 34 soon, he said, with a grin.

To help families like Hendrix’s, the House within a Hospital will be equipped with six bedrooms with private en-suite bathrooms, laundry room, fully stocked kitchen, dining area with tables and an island, living room with play area and computer stations with internet access.   It will also include a quiet room just down the hall from the House where families can go to have a moment of prayer and meditation.  Just as the house does today, daytime visitors as well as overnight guests will have access to the house and amenities and at no cost to families.

Keeping families close with sick children close to each other and the care and resources they need has been the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities Northeast Louisiana since 1985 when it first opened its doors to the community. The free-standing home currently located on South Third Street in Monroe has been a home away-from-home to thousands of families since that time.

Over the years the building has aged and needs many repairs and remodeling to meet the needs of today’s families.  

“As Helen Keller once said, ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’ and this partnership between St. Francis and Ronald McDonald House will do so much to benefit the families in need of our services,” said Street, executive director at the Ronald McDonald House.

Plans are underway with the goal of beginning construction early fall 2021.

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