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Essentia reveals Northland's first Ronald McDonald House

Construction on the house will start in July, and the space will be ready to open later this fall.

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The Essentia Health Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest on Thursday announced Ronald McDonald House Northland will be coming to Duluth. The five-bedroom home for pediatric patient families will be on the fourth floor of Essentia Health's Fifth Avenue Building at 503 E. Third St. in Duluth. It’s expected to open late fall 2020. (Photo courtesy Essentia Health Foundation)

Essentia Health revealed plans for the Northland's first Ronald McDonald House on Thursday.

The Ronald McDonald House Northland will provide free housing for families of pediatric patients — eliminating financial burdens and allowing them to stay close to their child. Construction will start in July, and it's slated to open later this fall on the fourth floor of Essentia's Fifth Avenue Building, located at 503 E. Third St.

“We know our pediatric families have needed a space like this for some time,” Derek Groves, chief development officer for the Essentia Health Foundation, wrote in a news release. “That is why we’re so thrilled to finally see this happen, so we can support these families during one of the most difficult times in their lives.

Five families can stay in the house simultaneously, and they will each have their own private bedrooms. A full kitchen, family room, laundry, pantry full of dry goods and more will make up the house's shared space. Staff will serve dinner every day, and brunch will be included during weekends.


The house will serve not just families from Essentia, but also from other hospitals in the area, like St. Luke's hospital in Duluth. Residents can apply to gain the free housing service through an Essentia social worker, Essentia Health CEO Dr. David Herman said in a Thursday news conference.

On average, it costs around $135 nightly for a hotel room in Duluth when using Essentia's discounted medical rate. Families of pediatric patients stay an average of four nights. Eliminating these costs will alleviate stress for families during difficult times, the news release said.

As long as the service is needed, families can stay at the house for an unlimited number of days. Most stay around four to seven days, said Jill Evenocheck, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest.

“This Ronald McDonald House is an extension of Essentia’s mission and values," Herman said.

An artist rendering of what the kitchen area would look like in Ronald McDonald House Northland. (Essentia Health Foundation)

Social workers will choose who can stay in the house based on severity of the patient's medical needs, with priority given to families of pediatric patients.

The Essentia Health Foundation and nonprofit Ronald McDonald House Charities Upper Midwest have been working on the project for two years, Derek Groves, chief development officer for Essentia Health Foundation, said during the news conference.


The Essentia Health Foundation will cover the estimated $325,000 to operate the house annually. The foundation, which is funded by donations and other means of community support, will also pay for the construction of the new house, Groves said.

The two organizations are moving forward with opening the house in the midst of the pandemic because families still need the service, Evenocheck said.

The house will have COVID-19 safety precautions in place, modeled after precautions taken at other Ronald McDonald facilities. They removed volunteers from the house and will require everyone who enters the house to wear masks, receive a temperature check and complete a health form.

The pandemic also influenced the house's design. For example, Herman said, they reconsidered spacing in the house to ensure social distancing could be maintained.

Around two to three people will be hired to staff the house. They plan to start seeking applicants in mid-July, Evenocheck said.

The foundation is seeking donations for the house, which will pay operational expenses and capital-improvement projects, the news release said.

This story was updated at 12:36 p.m. Thursday, June 25, with information from a news conference. It was originally posted at 11 a.m. Thursday, June 25.


An artist rendering of the Ronald McDonald House Northland family room. (Essentia Health Foundation)

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