Hunter mixes the batter for his chocolate chip cookie recipe. Photo credit: Cody Byrne

Rather than sitting in class Monday morning, six Algonquin College students took the day to participate in a community event at Ronald McDonald House to prepare a chili dinner and chocolate chip cookies for the families living at the residence.

Hunter Morris, 27, a graduate of Algonquin’s business administration program and the community engagement officer for the AC Hub, lead the team of students. The motley crew from a variety of programs came together under Hunter’s instruction to make the best of the experience. They completed the task in just under three hours.

“I learn something on every community event I go to,” Hunter said. “There’s no better way to get to know people than sharing the gift of a meal with them.”

Paige McCabe, the development and volunteer manager of Ronald McDonald House, explained that the organization is “a home away from home for families who have a sick child at CHEO or any local hospital.”

“We take them in and become a haven while they receive treatment,” she said. “Our top priority is oncology because of the six to eight months of treatment those patients require, but we help all families living at least 80 kilometers from their child’s treatment facility. We are currently at capacity with 14 families, and 10 more on a waiting list.”

McCabe is one of only four full-time staff members with a mere three other part-timers working at the house presently.

“I wear a lot of hats,” McCabe said. “I manage events, our social media presence, group organization and more. We all have to help out in different departments to make it work.”

With minimal employees, the organization relies on volunteers to fill in the gaps when necessary.

“We can’t do what we do without the volunteers that come in every single day to help us out. It sounds so simple to make a meal, but to come back form a long day at the hospital and enjoy good food together makes a big difference,” McCabe said.

Hunter has been working with the volunteer centre at Algonquin for over two months, speaking highly of the impact these events have on both the community and the students involved.

“I encourage everyone to look beyond their normal routine and try something new,” he said. “Volunteering is a great way to make a positive impact on our community and the best way to learn about it firsthand.”