Q&A with Beth Trunfio

Executive director talks about the mission of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of CNY

By Mary Beth Roach

Beth Trunfio has been the executive director of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central New York for 24 years. The facility on East Genesee Street opened its doors on Thanksgiving Day in 1982 and is currently undergoing a $1 million expansion, which is expected to be open by spring.

Q: Can you briefly describe the work of the Ronald McDonald House?

A: The Ronald McDonald House keeps families with seriously ill children together and close to the care and the resources that they need.

Q: How do you do that?

A: We have served as a temporary home for thousands of families who’ve traveled to Syracuse from across this state, other states and some foreign countries to access the medical care that we have. We provide all of the basic needs that a family needs — a home-cooked meal, a place to rest and rejuvenate — very close to our local hospitals, clinics and healthcare facilities and the ability for families to be together, to not be worried about anything other than focusing on the medical care of their child and be fully engaged in that care at no cost to families.

Q: How big is your staff and budget?

A: We have a $1.6 million operating budget. We have eight full-time staff. We’re evolving as an organization, expanding our programs and our services and with that, our team. We are staffed 24/7, so we have weekend, evening and overnight employees.

Q: How are you funded?

A: Strictly from private donations, from donors, the generosity of our community. We are a grassroots organization. We have really relied on that model since we opened and it’s how we continue to be funded and supported today.

Q: Do you get any support from McDonald’s Corporation?

A: Yes, McDonald’s is our forever and founding mission partner. Through McDonald’s, we have wonderful support in those restaurants. One of the programs is the roundup program. When you drive through a restaurant, you will or likely be asked to round up for the Ronald McDonald House. Our local McDonald’s owners are extremely supportive. They also will come in and cook for our guest families, serve on our board of directors, do wish-list drives for those much-needed day-to-day items that we need to support our families, as well as personally make financial contributions.

Q: How many families, on average, do you serve in a year?

A: In 2022, we served 450 families. This year, we are at 2,400-night stays already [as of end of October 2023)].

Q: What prompted the expansion?

A: We noticed that as family support grew — maybe there’s a grandparent or an aunt or an uncle that was coming to help support this family — that the need for larger space was important. It was really important to us to think about larger families; what is evolving with the care of children; how families are living and working remotely. Some of these are long-term stays and parents need to be able to work and maintain their livelihoods while they’re here. They’re juggling so many things and we just wanted them to be able to do so in a way that reduced any kind of stress in their lives.

Q: If anyone is interested in donating to the expansion, how can they do that?

A: They can go to our website, www.rmhcny.org. It’s a great place to go to learn about the expansion and stay updated, but certainly to learn how to get involved in other ways. We have a youth board, a young professional board. There are a lot of ways to get involved and engaged and support these families during a really critical time.

Q: In September, it was announced that the Ronald McDonald House was undergoing a large expansion. What will that involve?

A: We will be renovating more than 9,000 square feet of unfinished space we have on our fourth floor. The expansion will include six family suites, providing a total of 14 additional beds to accommodate more guests. Four of those suites will be one-bedroom suites and we will have two, two-bedroom suites. They’ll be private bathrooms, kitchenettes, living room space. There’s a shared laundry facility on that floor. What’s unique about this space is that it will enable us to accommodate these larger multi-generational families that we serve. What we know and what research shows is that when families are together and when parents are fully engaged and involved in that care at the hospital, the children who are being treated do better. We’re very focused on creating space for these families to be able to have some sense of normalcy while they’re going through such a really unthinkable time.