At the inside cash register and under the drive-up window at the Arcadia McDonald’s, there are boxes for customers to leave their change. Tell you the truth, I never paid much attention to them until talking to Tim and Pam Vowels, owners of our McDonald’s. I found out those little boxes are for the Ronald McDonald House ... spare change collected from them can mean plenty to those with sick kids.

Here’s the amazing part of the story: Despite DeSoto County having one of the lowest per capita incomes in Florida, as of the 2010 census we ranked 61 out of 67, last year that McDonald’s on State Road 70 gave more in-store donations to the Ronald McDonald House than any other state franchise. Go figure. This is what makes our town special, sometimes those with the least in material possessions give the most, one penny at a time.

Tim explained: “The Ronald McDonald House goes beyond charity, it addresses a tough time in a parent’s life, when their child is sick and in a hospital miles away from home. Parents need to be close by their kids at times like this, and this gives them that opportunity. They can stay as long as necessary, close to the hospital, for $10 a day if they can afford it; if not, it’s free. In addition, everyone has a small chore to perform in order to keep housekeeping costs down.”

Pam added, “It allows parents to be actively involved in their child’s medical care, and being close to their child certainly has a positive effect on their recovery.”

The Ronald McDonald House started in 1954 when 3-year-old Kim Hill was being treated for leukemia. During her three-year stay, Kim’s parents often camped out in the hospital lobby and ate makeshift meals from the vending machine. People heard of the situation, rallied together, and contacted the advertising agency of a local McDonald’s. They came up with the idea of a green milkshake, which they named the “Shamrock” shake, it was sold to raise money to purchase the first Ronald McDonald House. And that’s how it all began.

Remember that story about Mother Teresa and three pennies? It’s the same thinking in Arcadia. Combine this with community leaders such as Pam and Tim Vowels—Pam was recently chosen as the 2019 Leadership DeSoto alumni achievement recipient, and the pair regularly donate meals and cash to any number of causes and charities—and we have a major ingredient for a healthy community. Cortny Hollingsworth, Arcadia McDonald’s customer care representative, said that “the national average for Ronald McDonald House collections is $4 a day; our McDonald’s in Arcadia averages over $16 a day. Last year that little silver box gave us $6,167, plus additional money was collected from several promotions that Tim and Pam ran.”

When a company has a mission statement like “every customer is a friend, every employee is family,” it’s no wonder that our McDonald’s has become a bright and shining star.

Next time I stop for lunch at our McDonald’s, I’m paying attention to that little silver box in front of the register. Just a hint, the quarter pounder with cheese is my favorite. It’s $6.89 for the meal, which means $7 leaves 11 cents for the Ronald McDonald House.

One penny at a time.

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