He claims he’s retired, but the staff and the more than 400 Guest Services Volunteers at our House know better. “Retired” Proctor & Gamble professional Don Freed donates more hours volunteering than many people spend at the office. Every week, Monday through Thursday, Don is at our House greeting guests, helping keep our House running, giving tours and sharing a pat on the back or a supportive shoulder whenever necessary. And, on Fridays and Sundays, he volunteers at Hospice of Cincinnati.
Since 1995, Don has donated more than 20,000 hours of volunteer service to our House. He averages 32 hours per week, which is enough to qualify him as full time with many companies. But he doesn’t do it for pay – he does it simply to help provide comfort, hope and a “home away from home” to families during a very difficult time. Our Executive Director, Jennifer Goodin, says, “I don’t know what we would do without Don. He’s one of those people you can always rely on. No matter what need arises, for a guest family, a staff member or our House in general, Don is always happy to take care of it.”
Don first came face-to-face with the difficulties a family faces when a child is ill when an employee’s six-year-old daughter was injured in a car accident. Don made frequent trips to visit the little girl and her family, who were living in Louisville’s Ronald McDonald House. He was so moved by their House, their staff and their services, he decided that, after retirement, Cincinnati’s Ronald McDonald House would be his avocation.
Over the years, Don’s projects have ranged from coordinating the move from the original 21-bedroom House to the current 78-bedroom House. He also assists in maintenance tasks, and on cold winter mornings, before our guests are awake, Don often makes sure the walks and parking lots are cleared so families can easily get to the hospital. Don also helps with the collection of hundreds of thousands of pull tabs. He makes coffee. He does dishes. He takes out trash. He tends the garden.
Don views everything he does at our House as an opportunity to comfort a family. He says he was particularly moved by a mother whose eight-year-old son had a brain tumor. As Don was getting to know her, she mentioned how often she looked out of her son’s hospital window and smiled at our beautiful garden. The mother said she would come and sit in the garden each day to temporarily escape the worries of her child’s condition. She said the garden gave her “a sense of peace and tranquility” during the most traumatic time of her life.
Don says the reason he devotes so much of his time to volunteer service is for the families and the children:
I keep a prayer list in my pocket for the children. To me, our House is a safe haven where families can be in fellowship with others who are enduring similar hardships. It’s a place where they can help one another get through all the stress and anxiety. If you take the time to get to know these families, you get to share in their joys and maybe help ease their sorrows. The more time I volunteer, the better I understand what we do here – offer hope to families in need.