HARLINGEN — With COVID-19 comes complications, challenges and unforeseen circumstances.
As people continue to make adjustments and alterations during these trying times, businesses and nonprofit organizations are also working toward making changes for the better.
For about the past 30 years, families of critically ill children receiving medical treatment in South Texas have been provided a home away from home through Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of the Rio Grande Valley and RMHC of Corpus Christi.
However, like with many organizations, the pandemic has brought changes to RMHC of the RGV.
As a result of low occupancy and closures during the pandemic, the Valley’s Ronald McDonald House in Harlingen has been and will remain permanently closed.
According to RMHC South Texas CEO Michelle Horine, the building was turned back over to Valley Baptist Medical Center since it sat on their property.
“They’re going to repurpose that building to serve the community in another way,” Horine said. “We did work with them throughout the transition and we’re confident that the building is going to continue to serve families of the Rio Grande Valley in some capacity.”
In July of 2021, RMHC of the RGV and RMHC of Corpus Christi announced their decision to unite the two nonprofit branches to create RMHC South Texas.
“As RMHC South Texas, the vision is a world where all children have access to the medical care they need, and their families are fully supported and actively involved in their children’s care,” Horine said. “We remain deeply committed to continue to provide access to health care by taking it directly to the small communities throughout South Texas.”
Months into the unification, the nonprofit is making progress in its transition.
“The community has been very gracious and understanding that the unification will serve the families and more families,” Horine said. “I’m grateful for the patients because the merger has been a process in terms of unifying it all and working through COVID.”
Prior to the unification, RMHC had two programs — Ronald McDonald Houses and Family Rooms.
As the newly established RMHC South Texas, the nonprofit will serve children in the Valley and Coastal Bend through the continuous operation of the House program in Corpus Christi and two Ronald McDonald Family Rooms at Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and Edinburg Children’s Hospital.
“We have a plan put together where we’re going to be introducing some new programs in the Ronald McDonald House in the Valley regions where we will actually be able to take our programs and services to the communities itself, rather than the few families who are just utilizing the House program,” Horine said.
According to Horine, something that was identified about RMHC’s House in Harlingen was that between 60 and 65 percent of families that are served at the Corpus Christi House are Rio Grande Valley families.
With the unification of the regions, RMHC South Texas created an additional program named the “Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.”
Through this program, a 40-foot vehicle will travel directly into areas where children are medically underserved and will offer high-quality medical services and health education through relationships with local health care organizations and clinical service providers.
Personnel say it is a much-needed community resource that will expand services and reach more children by enabling access to health care in communities where children and families need it most.
“We’ve never had it in Corpus Christi or the Rio Grande Valley,” Horine said. “The boards were really excited to unify because we felt like by taking this mobile care unit to the communities of the Rio Grande Valley, both upper and lower, that we would be able to serve more children and families that way.”
Horine explained that creating this new program is about an 18-month implementation process that is currently in progress.
“So many of our families come from the Rio Grande Valley,” Horine said. “Our goal is to get our families taken care of and get them back home to their communities where they can continue to live a healthy life.”
For more information about RMHC South Texas, visit www.rmhcofcc.org.