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Ronald McDonald House gears for drive

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As it prepares to kick off a capital campaign this fall to raise $10 million for its new facility, the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte is working to enlist all the donations and in-kind support it can get.

“Ronald McDonald House is only as strong as the community that supports it,” says Joanne Charnetski, executive director.

Located on the 1600 block of East Morehead St. and scheduled to open in late 2008 or early 2009, the 40,000-square-foot facility will provide a “home away from home” for 20 to 30 families of seriously ill children staying in local hospitals, Charnetski says.

In addition to private suites and bedrooms for family members, the facility will feature areas that families will share, including a kitchen, living room, learning center, playground and sitting porch.

With a network of 269 Ronald McDonald Houses serving nearly 10 million families throughout the world, including North Carolina facilities in Durham, Chapel Hill, Greenville and Winston-Salem, an underlying principle of the charity is to provide “collective support so it truly feels like a home and you feel like you’re walking into your own home, with private space and space you can share,” Charnetski says.

Consulting firm Vandever Batten is serving as campaign counsel for Ronald McDonald House, which this fall will present its fundraising plans to the Charlotte Capital Campaign Planning Board.

While the building will cost $8 million, with another $1 million needed to operate it for its first two years and another $1 million needed for an operating reserve, the nonprofit is counting on in-kind and cash contributions from corporations, particularly those involved in the housing-construction business.

Conger Builders, for example, has teamed up with the Thompson family, an owner of the Charlotte-based restaurant company Firebirds International, to form a limited liability corporation that is financing construction of a $2.65 million charity estate in the Skyecroft community that will benefit the new Ronald McDonald House.

Ronald McDonald House will receive cash donations reflecting the value of in-kind contributions to the charity estate at Skyecroft from firms and vendors developing it.

Conger Builders, Robbie Warren Interiors and Carolina Design Group all are working for free to develop the charity estate and are seeking cash or in-kind contributions from companies that supply construction materials and services.

Skyecroft also is marketing the charity estate and will donate to Ronald McDonald House part of the marketing fee typically charged for new homes.

And Atlanta-based Today’s Custom Home magazine has provided free advertising and promotion for the charity estate, has created artwork to advertise tours of the estate and invitations to its preview night, and will run a story on the estate in its September issue.

The charity estate, which totals 8,000 square feet and will open for home tours starting Sept. 8, also be available for rental for events, with all proceeds to be donated to Ronald McDonald House.

As part of its campaign, Ronald McDonald House already has received over $2 million worth of in-kind contributions, including roughly $1 million worth of design and construction work from its design firm, Little Diversified Consulting, and its contractor, J.F. Schultze Construction.

“As a charitable organization,” Charnetski says, “our goal is to set precedents in everything that we do within our community.”

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