'Massive commitment': Orange's Ronald McDonald House nears completion

NEARLY THERE: Orange builder Mick Fabar and Ronald McDonald House fundraising committee chair Joanne Lewis, who were at the public meeting nine years ago, view the progress at the site yesterday. If weather permits, the Ronald McDonald House in Orange will be finished and ready for its first occupants in late August.
Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0428sgmh1

NEARLY THERE: Orange builder Mick Fabar and Ronald McDonald House fundraising committee chair Joanne Lewis, who were at the public meeting nine years ago, view the progress at the site yesterday. If weather permits, the Ronald McDonald House in Orange will be finished and ready for its first occupants in late August. Photo: STEVE GOSCH 0428sgmh1

IT'S been a huge community effort involving many years of fundraising, but now Orange’s Ronald McDonald House is entering its final phase of completion with the first occupants expected to take up residence at the end of August.

The project has been met at times with insurmountable hurdles, including major redesigning to take into account heritage issues on the site.

However, with stage one - involving six rooms and communal living, dining and kitchen areas, as well as a learning centre and administration offices - of the $4.5 million project already funded, there is still a shortfall of almost $1 million to build stage two of the project comprising another 12 rooms and units for sick children and their families.

“Money boxes - $2 coins and $5 notes have built this house, along with the incredible support we have received from businesses and organisations,” RMH fundraising committee chair Joanne Lewis said.

“It would be wonderful if we could get that money in sooner rather than later as it will be more expensive later on.”

The first stage of the project - four rooms with bathrooms and two self-contained units, along with all the infrastructure for stage two -is now up to the final plastering stage ready for painting.

“One of the things which we sadly could never have envisaged is the number of vulnerable families we would need to cater for who have a child who has mental health problems,” Mrs Lewis said.

“Orange now takes 86 per cent of the state’s children and young people who are receiving mental health treatment, so in planning our rooms we needed to have spaces where they were self-contained and have their privacy with an option to use the common areas if they would like to.”

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The Orange Ronald McDonald House is a far cry from the original concept.

“At first we thought we would renovate a house in Orange,” Mrs Lewis said.

“Then we went on to plan the building here, but that has just changed and evolved so much as the level of specialist services planned for this new hospital continued to grow.”

Builder Mick Fabar said the project wasn’t without its hurdles.

“This has been a massive commitment in terms of creating a solar passive building, and the heritage issues we had to address with this site,” he said.

“At times it’s felt like battle after battle, but Joanne and Jeff [Lewis] have just kept going through it all.”

Mrs Lewis said an RMH executive officer and manager would soon be appointed to the house. 

The RMH educator, who is already working with 50 families in the area to help sick children catch up on homework and learning programs,  will also take up residence at the new facility.

The new RMH will have no public access and a sophisticated security system. All families going in to the house will be direct referrals from the Orange hospital.

If you would like to contribute to the building fund to speed up the completion of the final 12 rooms and units, call Joanne Lewis on 0419 610 002.

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