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Hometown Helpers: Ronald McDonald Family Room worker makes difference by serving families in need

Hometown Helpers

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IDAHO FALLS — EastIdahoNews.com is introducing you to Hometown Helpers in our community. We want to spotlight a firefighter, police officer, city worker or others who quietly keep our cities and counties running.

This week, we are featuring Lori Priest, the director of community engagement for the Ronald McDonald House Charities Idaho. Ronald McDonald House Charities is a nonprofit organization.

“The favorite part about my day is knowing that I am doing something that is helping someone in a really tough spot,” said Priest.

Priest has been working at her job for two and a half years. She gets to step into the Ronald McDonald Family Room and help people every day going through a difficult time. The family room opened in September 2019 and is located inside the walls of Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

“The family room is a home away from home for parents who have pediatric patients here at EIRMC. We are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 365 days a year. We provide a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner to families when they need a meal,” she said.

The housing area has four sleep rooms, a kitchen, a dining room, laundry facilities and more. It’s a place that provides a home-like environment for families with sick kids at the hospital so they are just steps away from them. Families can get something to eat, take a shower, do laundry and stay the night.

“We are just glad to be here for families when they need us,” Priest said.

Families that stay in the family room can live in Idaho Falls or travel in from another area. Priest said a family from Rexburg utilized the family room for nearly 80 days.

The family room means a lot to Priest, especially since she has gone through a personal trial as a parent herself years ago.

“I had a very sick child. My daughter had botulism and we were in the hospital with her for five weeks,” Priest said. “The things that I learned (taught me to) take nothing for granted. (Now) I get to use empathy and understanding for the parents that are here (in the family room).”

The story ended well with Priest’s daughter Kelsey. She’s now 31 years old and has identical twins with her husband.

Priest’s experience guides the work she does.

“I learned a lot through something difficult and I am glad that I get to use it in the later years of my career, trying to help lighten someone else’s load,” Priest said.

Priest said she is grateful to the community for the support of the family room.

“I would like to express our gratitude for our community. They have been so kind to bring in donations of snacks, water bottles and all kinds of blankets. Those are all donations from people in our community who may have walked the journey with a sick child or they just care about people going through a tough time,” she said. “We often say, we get to see the best part of mankind because people care and they take the time and they walk through our doors and they just want to give love and kindness to those that are here.”

Priest shows every day that she’s a Hometown Helper by making a difference and serving families in need.

If you would like to learn more about the Ronald McDonald Family Room, click here.

If you know a Hometown Helper that we should feature, email andrea.olson@eastidahonews.com.

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