Capital Rotary Club members on March 20 heard how Columbia’s Ronald McDonald House works to comfort families that have to be away from home while dealing with a child’s medical crisis. The compassionate story came from guest speakers Liz Atkinson (left in photo) and Beth Lowrie (at right in photo), who serve as the charity’s operations manager and executive director, respectively. They said the 16,000-square-foot, 16-bedroom Ronald McDonald House provides a comfortable environment where families can rest, enjoy home-cooked meals, relax in spacious living areas, use laundry facilities and most importantly, experience a network of support among other families facing similar worries and fears. The stability of this “home away from home” not only relieves emotional and financial stress, but also allows families to focus on being there for their child when it matters most. The local Ronald McDonald house is one of 368 similar facilities located in 48 countries. Columbia’s house opened 35 years ago; its occupancy rate averages 87 per cent. Atkinson and Lowrie said there is a constant need for volunteers and fund-raising to support the charity’s programs. The Ronald McDonald House is open to serve families 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.