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RMH’s Family Room needs volunteers

When Whitney Vita left the hospital after giving birth, it wasn’t with her newborn cradled in her arms.

The nursery she and her husband Tim had prepared sat empty. For 33 days.

That’s how long Sophie stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger after she was born prematurely at 32 weeks.

Instead of being at home with their baby girl, Tim and Whitney Vita visited their daughter daily, for hours at a time, through her recovery. When the Vitas couldn’t be in the room with Sophie, during treatments or shift changes, they made their way to Ronald McDonald House’s Family Room. A little piece of home on the third floor, the Family Room is equipped with fresh coffee, a fully stocked kitchen, laundry facilities, books to borrow and Internet access.

It was even recently renovated.

But these days it’s not always open. That’s because the room is only available when two volunteers are present.

So Tim Vita, along with his fellow volunteer and friend Matt St. Charles, is encouraging the community to volunteer with RMH so that the Family Room can be open from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. each day.

“The Family Room is a really great place to go during those down times,” Tim Vita said. “There’s a real need to get people to fill out the schedule so people can always count on it.”

Volunteering requires a three-hour time commitment per month, a short orientation, a background check and an up-to-date shot record, he explained. Volunteering itself usually just entails making coffee, changing out linens and taking out the trash on occasion, said St. Charles.

“It provides a valuable service when it’s needed,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from or what your background is. You never know when you’re going to be in that situation.”

For more information about Ronald McDonald House or volunteering at the Family Room, call 778-4300 or visit rmhchattanooga.com.