Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Visiting the Ronald McDonald House of Morgantown WV

Day One

There is a Gramazin spirit of compassion in Morgantown, o

It was evident from our first phone call to the city.  It was also evident today as Chad and I visited the city, our first official stop on our Gramazin Journey.  The people we met today were people who genuinely cared for their neighbors in need.  Morgantown, WV would be a wonderful place to call home.

The Gramazin Journey trip to Morgantown, WV

We left our home in West Chester, PA at the break of dawn.  The drive along Rt. 68 through Maryland and West Virginia was gorgeous, as the mountains glistened with the frosting of newly fallen light snow.

West Virginia University Children's Hospital

We arrived at the West Virginia University Children’s Hospital at 12 pm.  We were greeted in the lobby and escorted upstairs to the children’s floor.  We had the pleasure to meet and interview Charmain Venter, a volunteer at the hospital who clearly reflects the heart the hospital has for children and the families who love them so much.  We hand-delivered five Bumpes and books, a donation by Philadelphia, PA area toy designer Christopher Carlson.  We ask for special prayers for Quinton, Sabrina, and Noah, three dear children who are currently patients in the hospital.

Charmain Venter, volunteer at West Virginia University Children's Hospital

It was encouraging to hear the stories of how many residents of Morgantown and students at West Virginia University volunteer at the children’s ward because they care.  The hospital has clearly made a major investment to not only the care of children from all over Maryland and West Virginia but also to their parents who struggle with the fears and medical decisions they must face every day.

After leaving the hospital, Chad and I visited Kroger grocery store to pick up the groceries we needed to prepare a Shepherd’s Pie meal at the Ronald McDonald House.  The employees at Kroger’s were  friendly, gracious and helpful.  It was a fantastic blessing when Kroger donated the groceries we need for the residents of the home. Thank you very much, Kroger!

Bumpe in the toy box on the children's floorWe would like to give a special thanks to Sarah, an employee in the bakery at Kroger.  She did an amazing job designing the cake to reflect the Gramazin mission – our desire to gather inspirational stories from across America.  Great job, Sarah!  It was a pleasure to meet you!

We arrived at the Ronald McDonald House around 3 pm.  Chad and I were there to cook a meal for 30-40 guests.  However, we were greeted by a reporter and a photographer from The Dominion Post and a reporter from WBOY, channel 12 in Clarksburg, WV.  Steve DeJesus, the Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House, had spread the word about our desire to gather 10,000 inspirational stories.  We are very thankful for all of them for sharing with the residents of northern West Virginia our mission to inspire people who have lost hope.

Kroger's grocery store Steve shared with us a sampling of the many inspirational stories that are associated with the Ronald McDonald house.  Just like Charmain, Steve offered to help Gramazin collect stories in the coming weeks for publishing on the Gramazin Morgantown WV city page.

Tomorrow, we will attend a local church and tour Morgantown, capturing more of the heart of the community, before heading back to West Chester.

The people we met today in Morgantown, WV are truly Gramazin!

Sarah at Kroger's did an amazing job decorating the cake for the residents of the RMH

WBOY West Virginia



The Dominion, Morgantown, WV

Day Two

We enjoyed a very nice stay at the Hampton Inn, 1053 Van Voorhis Road, Morgantown, West Virginia.  The room was very clean and stylish, the Internet worked great, and our breakfast was delicious.  Special thanks to Bekah Gillespie, Director of Sales, who extended to Chad and I a complimentary night’s stay as an act of compassion for the folks at the Ronald McDonald House.

Chad and I also enjoyed a delicious dinner at Applebee’s, which is adjacent to the hotel, after we cooked dinner for the folks at the Ronald McDonald House last night.  I enjoyed the Napa Chicken and Portobellas and Chad enjoyed the Signature Sirloin with Garlic Herb Shrimp.  Both of our meals were under 550 calories!  The staff demonstrated true professionalism as they made sure everything was great, not only for us, but also for the other guests.

Applebee's, Morgantown, WVCharmain Venter, the volunteer we met at the West Virginia University Children’s Hospital yesterday, invited us to attend services this morning at theSuncrest United Methodist Church.  It was our pleasure to accept her invitation.  How could we turn her down?  The church is also next door to the Hampton Inn.

We were greeted warmly by a team of ushers and greeters.  I am certainly not a music expert but it seemed to my ear the members of the worship team were talented and passionate about their faith.  What struck me personally was how both of the pastors conveyed genuine compassion for people in need.  The pastor invited us to have further conversations about how Gramazin can work with the church to inspire people in Morgantown, WV who have lost hope.

Chad and I attended church services today at Suncrest United Methodist Church in Morgantown, WV

“Nancy”, an attendee at the church today, whoever you are, thank you!  Chad and I were talking hours later about our private conversation with you after the service.  It is people like you that make it easier for Chad and I to do what we want to do to help others in need.  God bless you!

After the church service, Chad and I drove around Morgantown before we left the city.  We look forward to making contact with many of the businesses in town over the next few weeks, promoting the startups and small businesses that are trying to help people improve their lives.

Morgantown, WV As we drove back to West Chester, PA, there was something drawing both Chad and I to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA.  I am certain it was the ultimate sacrifice of those who did their part to save the US Capitol from destruction on one of the darkest days in American history.  Chad and I wanted show our respect by visiting the place where the voices of inspiring men and women fell silent on September 11, 2001.  The excursion turned what should have been a four hour trip to get home into an eight hour marathon, thanks to the Pennsylvania Turnpike having traffic problems.  However, we were pleased to take the extra time to honor the lives of the victims of Flight 93.

The entrance to the Flight 93 memorial off of Rt. 30

A sign at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA

Chad Wagner at the national memorial

The direction of Flight 93 the last few hundred yards

A marble stone for each of the victims of Flight 93

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An Interview of Charmain Venter Who Volunteers at Ruby Memorial Hospital

Arriving in Morgantown, West Virginia, around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, my father and I spent our first couple of hours visiting West Virginia University’s Ruby Memorial Children’s Hospital. There, we got a taste of the difficulties the families at the Ronald McDonald house face, and the reason behind why it’d be so special to serve them dinner later on.

Entering one of the play rooms, we met volunteer Charmain Venter, as well as three children, Sabrina, Noah, and Quinton, and their parents. Coming with books and toys donated by Christopher Carlson, we couldn’t help but feel for everyone in the room. We wanted to help them smile, but a number of them weren’t yet in the condition to play.

After placing the Bumpes in a toy chest, we spoke to Charmain Venter, about her history and the hospital’s efforts to care for the children.

Three years ago, Charmain traveled to Morgantown, from South Africa, with her family, when a job opportunity opened up for her husband at West Virginia University as a forensics professor. She came to West Virginia expecting change. No longer was her home right next to the beach, but in a cold environment. Only she, out of her husband, son, and daughter, could speak English fluently. Driving was now understandably confusing, and the measurements she had memorized, no longer helpful. But there was one change, she says, she couldn’t see coming. And that was the compassion of people around her. The town embraced her transfer and welcomed her as a friend.

She is reminded of this through how they continue to embrace the local students.

The university is what carries Morgantown, and I think this is part of the reason why people are so accepting and so giving here is because the community is so diverse. The students who come here, a lot of them are from other countries, and because they are strange and far away from home and do not have a support system, the community tends to take them in and take care of them. And that is part of the reason, I think, they are such wonderful people.

And it is because of such commitment, she claims, the hospital is in great condition.

My experience with hospitals has always been very cold and very clinical. Here, it’s not. It’s a warm, welcoming environment. The staff are so supporting towards each other and towards the families. They do not show anyone away, no matter where they’re from, or what their financial needs might be. They do not let anyone leave and not help them. The children’s hospital, in my opinion, is one of the best places ever. Not only do they have the very best doctors and nursing staff who work here, but the general experience for a child who is really sick and comes here is way better than a normal hospital. The staff really makes the kids feel at home.

The hospital provides the children and parents plenty of ways to get their minds away from their troubles. The children are given televisions that feature full gaming systems (Xbox, Wii, etc.), which allow the kids to play video games, watch movies and TV. Not too long ago, the parents were given ‘sleeping chairs,’ that act almost as if oversized recliners with television screens built into them.

Yet, the hospital knows that entertainment isn’t enough. The parents are given free meals and allowed to go shopping while their kids are babysat. They are always immediately informed of their child’s condition and are able to be with them 24/7. The mothers are even said to be offered free makeovers, where the volunteers wash their hair, paint their nails, and “make them feel pretty.” The hospital’s care for them isn’t limited in any way whatsoever.

I’ve had a personal experience where I knew of somebody who was here at the hospital with a little child, and they could not speak the language, and it was little things like a hug that made all the difference,” said Charmin.

Lastly, her local church, Suncrest United Methodist, has also offered itself as a caregiver.

The Church that I belong to, we do what we call ‘prayer quilts’ and we give them to people who are in the hospital. And at our service, the pastor reads whatever is wrong with them, and we then tie-knots. It is a quilt that is put in the front of the church with little pieces of string that we sow on, and we tie knots on them. And a copy of the service and the quilt is later given to them.

The quilts are said to go all over the world. If you are near Morgantown, they are working on them every Thursday. Check out their website if you’d like to see what they’re up to.

Please pray for the children at Ruby Memorial. That God would provide them healing, and their parents, strength. There is no way we can understand what they are going through. But we can recognize their pain and suffering, and through our personal motivation to love and empathize, bless them through Him.

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