PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay had to close their St. Pete house to volunteers because of the coronavirus pandemic. That meant their kitchens could no longer prepare food, and they had to look to local restaurants and food trucks to feed their families.
Isabela and Fred Amaral have been staying at Ronald McDonald House in St. Pete since February. They traveled from Brazil so 11-year-old Fred could receive therapy. He is living with Cerebral Palsy.
“We planned to stay six months and get Fred walking freely with no walking sticks, he was getting on track and then suddenly we find out that everything should be stopped,” said Isabela.
This mother and son are among 72 people staying within the three St. Pete houses. That’s 700 meals a week, but due to COVID-19, the meal program, run primarily by volunteers, is on hold.
“Because the meal groups come in there at usually no cost to us, the meal groups donate all of that, so it’s complimentary to us and our families,” said Lisa Suprenand, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay.
Ronald McDonald House had to feed their families some other way, so they turned to their neighborhood restaurants and food trucks. That’s an extra $5,000 a week into the economy.
“Kids just go nuts over food trucks, it cheers everybody up, it cheers me up to be able to help, it cheers up my staff,” said Ronica Whaley with Shiso Crispy.
Parked in the shadow of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and just a block away from Ronald McDonald House, Shiso Crispy is one of several food trucks that these families enjoy.
“Very good,” said Fred.
“It’s delicious, and it has this variety, it's nice, very nice,” said Isabela.
Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay said 85% of their funding comes from the community, and it wouldn’t be possible without them. The families appreciate it.
“When you are going through a crisis already and then you have to put this on top of it, they have just been as cheery as they can possibly be under the circumstances,” said Suprenand.
They aren’t sure when their meal groups will be able to return, so they are depending on the community’s generosity.
If you'd like to help, visit https://rmhctampabay.org/coronavirus or text the word MEAL to 22452.
This week Baldwin Roofing is matching all donations up to $5,000.