BANGOR, Maine — This month the Ronald McDonald House of Bangor is marking 25 years of housing the families of seriously ill children, many of them from Aroostook and Washington counties and other places that aren’t within an easy commute of Bangor’s two hospitals.
Since it opened on Dec. 16, 1983, the sprawling estate at 654 State St. has served more than 11,000 families, Patricia Beckwith, the house’s resident executive director and house manager from the day it opened, said Tuesday during a an open house there.
Tuesday’s open house, an informal reception held to thank supporters from the area business community, was one of two planned this month, she said. A larger event for the general public is set for Tuesday, Dec. 16, she said.
Also known as the “House that Love Built,” the Bangor house is the product of donated material, labor and funding, noted John Rohman of the Bangor architectural firm WBRC, one of many area companies that helped renovate, and later expand, what once was the home of the superintendent of Bangor Mental Health Institute.
The house’s annual operating budget, which this year stands at $375,000, is fueled entirely by donations and volunteers, Beckwith said. She hopes, however, to add grant money to the mix.
“The Ronald McDonald House is a treasure for our community. It’s hard to believe 25 years have gone by since [the facility opened],” said Bangor City Council chairman Gerry Palmer, one of dozens of elected officials and businesspeople who visited the house Tuesday.
“It doesn’t get any better than this for families who are in need,” he said.
Linda Bedell, who recently moved to the area from Windham, agreed.
“It provides a home away from home for families struggling through some very hard times,” said Bedell, who is among the 60 or so volunteers who help with meal preparation, entertaining children and the dozens of other tasks that keep the house running.
One of only two Ronald McDonald Houses in Maine — the other being in Portland — the Bangor facility can accommodate up to 14 families at a time. Stays range from one night to several months, depending on the medical situation.
Though there is a suggested donation of $10 a night, “We never ask families for money,” Beckwith said.
Besides bedrooms and suites, the house offers a large, fully equipped kitchen and dining room, laundry facilities, two living rooms, a video room, a playroom, a patio and an enclosed play area outside.
The large island in the kitchen, however, is where families gather to support one another.
“The best support is family to family,” Beckwith said. “They share their days and they share their problems and they support each other.”
For more information, call the Ronald McDonald House at 942-9003.