Throughout Women's History Month, we have recognized women who are making an impact in their industries. We close out our month-long salute with a conversation with Caron Byrd, who is making a difference in the community through a great cause, Ronald McDonald House.
Frequently when we talk about business, we are referring to "for profit" entities. The same knowledge and skill sets are required to effectively run a non-profit. As the executive director of Ronald McDonald House, Byrd directs one of the most successful non-profits in the area.
Carlee McCullough: Tell us about yourself.
Caron Byrd: Personally, I'm the mother of two: a 19 year-old son, Jackson; and a 16-year-old daughter, Paris. I'm a native of Houston. I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, with a B.S. in Communications and received my J.D. from George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va. In 1995, I relocated to Memphis.
CM: Tell us all about Ronald McDonald House? What services does your company provide?
CB: Ronald McDonald House is a "home-away-from-home" to families who have a child being treated for cancer at St. Jude. Families stay from 7 to 90 days, with the average stay being about 24 days. We have outdoor playground facilities; large communal kitchens and dining areas; laundry facilities; a meditation room; teen room; arts & craft room; and game room.
Families at Ronald McDonald House have all the comforts of home while they have to be away from their own communities and support systems. And the great thing about Ronald McDonald House is that it's completely free of charge. That's a tremendous gift to a family faced with the financial impact of a life-threatening disease.
CM: Most people do not look at non-profits as a business. Please explain the business side of your non-profit.
CB: A non-profit is definitely a business. I like to think of it as a business with heart or a business that provides some social good. We have to budget and plan just like a for-profit business. A non-profit provides people with the opportunity to improve their community or the lives of the members in their community. People invest their resources of time and/or money in the non-profits that connect with their desire to do "good" in their community.
There are so many organizations doing good work in our community. Resources are scarce and just like with for-profit business, non-profits have competition. We have to "sell" people on choosing our organization as the one with which they should volunteer or donate money.
CM: How important is philanthropy to Ronald McDonald House?
CB: Philanthropy is the center of everything that happens at Ronald McDonald House. When people connect emotionally with a cause – either because of a personal connection or because the cause moves them, they get involved and they want to make a difference. We have a small staff and we rely on people from the community getting involved as volunteers to serve as an extension of staff. Funding from the community is critical and financial donations of any size – whether it's $25 a month or a $25,000 grant – it makes a tremendous difference.
CM: What's next for Ronald McDonald House (RMH)?
CB: We just completed a capital campaign and capital improvements throughout Ronald McDonald House. This year, we're going to offer more opportunities for Ronald McDonald House families to go to some of the great attractions in Memphis. We're launching a transportation program that will take families to attractions like the Memphis Zoo; a Memphis Redbirds game; or to the theatre to see a play.
CM: What can people do to become involved in RMH?
CB: Volunteering is a great way to get involved. And the best way to learn more about Ronald McDonald House is to come and take a tour. We schedule tours each month. A great way to learn about all the opportunities we offer is to visit our website at www.rmhc-memphis.org or "Like" us through Facebook at www.facebook.com/rmhmemphis.
CM: What advice would you give to others interested in starting a non-profit?
CB: Do your homework. Find out if there are other organizations that provide the same or similar service. If so, look for ways to collaborate or ways that you can fill voids.
CM: Parting words?
CB: Thank you to the Tri-State Defender for being such a great supporter of Ronald McDonald House and for shining a light on our mission.