South Charlotte

Volunteer plays key role in helping to launch Ronald McDonald House

When you meet Marcia Jackson, her confidence and "can-do" attitude come across immediately. So does her warm and genuine demeanor.

Those attributes serve Jackson well in her career as a consultant providing training, leadership development and keynote speaking. For the past 18 years, this Midwest transplanted baby boomer has been the owner and principal consultant of Training Resources.

However, after learning about the planned Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte, Jackson's first thought was not business related.

At first, she wanted to volunteer her time doing crafts with residents. Those plans changed quickly after she spoke with Ari Harris, community outreach director for Charlotte's Ronald McDonald House.

It became clear that what the facility needed was someone to develop a volunteer training program. There is no centralized training; each location develops its own training to meet specific needs.

Jackson met with Harris, who brought valuable experience from her time at the Chapel Hill Ronald McDonald House, and the two worked together to identify areas that needed improvement. Jackson's initial lack of knowledge about the organization worked to her advantage, allowing her to bring a fresh perspective to the project.

Although she had heard of Ronald McDonald House, Jackson was not familiar with its mission, which is to provide a caring home away from home for families of children being treated in area medical facilities. The house broke ground in January 2010 and will have its grand opening in April. The Charlotte house has 28 bedrooms in 35,000 square feet, along with playrooms, a laundry room and other facilities. The $5.7 million facility was paid for by donations from private donors, corporations and McDonald's.

Jackson volunteered for months in 2010, working on training development. Although the Ronald McDonald House experience was new to her, creating training programs certainly was not.

Jackson developed several training modules and lesson plans intended to be taught first to the house operations managers, who serve in a supervisory role to teams of other volunteers and are responsible for training them. A team generally consists of someone in housekeeping, front-desk operations and a greeter.

In October, Jackson and Harris conducted a "Train the Trainer" session in order to familiarize the managers with all training elements.

In addition to developing training materials for each specific position, Jackson also developed materials related to the application process and orientation as well as a teen volunteer program. The goal is to have all volunteers trained when the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte opens in April.

The training program even has been submitted to the organization's corporate office as a model for all Ronald McDonald Houses.

The experience has been rewarding for Jackson, who said she feels "very lucky to have the opportunity to give back to the Charlotte community, and especially to such a phenomenal organization."

Clearly, it's a feeling that goes both ways.

Harris explains what Jackson's contributions have meant: "In essence, Marcia's work has made it possible for over 350 volunteers to undergo training that will allow them to work in the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte. Her legacy at the House is going to be felt every day in the volunteers who greet our families, set up rooms, prepare meals and more."