Carolyn Schwarz

Carolyn Schwarz
  • Name
  • Carolyn Schwarz
  • Title
  • Executive Director
  • Organization
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central Texas
  • Years as Executive Director
  • 1

  • What does your organization do?
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Central Texas (RMHC Central Texas) was built on the simple idea that nothing else should matter when a family is focused on the health of their child. When a child is hospitalized, the love and support of a family is as powerful as the strongest medicine prescribed. As a comforting “home-away-from-home” for families whose lives have unexpectedly changed when their child becomes ill or injured, RMHC Central Texas keeps families together so they can help their child heal. RMHC Central Texas creates, finds and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children. Through its Ronald McDonald House and Ronald McDonald Family Room® programs, RMHC Central Texas provides stability and resources to families to keep them together as their critically ill or injured children receive treatment in Austin-area hospitals. The Ronald McDonald House is a 30 guest room, nurturing home-like environment and the Ronald McDonald Family Rooms are located within three Austin hospitals. For more information, visit www.rmhc-austin.org.
  • How did you become interested in this work?
  • I am trained as a social worker and have worked in non-profits and education for over 22 years. I have known since high school that I have a call to service and I feel so fortunate that I get to put my passion for helping others to work every day.
  • What drives your passion?
  • As a parent I have experienced pediatric medical crisis in my own family so I have a particular passion and affinity for the work we do at RMHC Central Texas. I know what it's like to have to sleep in the chair in the hospital room and I am so happy that our services at RMHC allow families to stay close-by to their children in a comfortable bed when they are sick. Our family-centered approach provides psycho-social support to families, reduces financial burdens, enhances clinical experiences and outcomes and helps families resume normalcy much more quickly.
  • Did you have a mentor or role model?
  • Robin Shivers was an incredible mentor to me. She was the founder and visionary behind the creation of Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM). Robin taught me so much about the business of running a non-profit. I am forever indebted to her for sharing her wisdom and support.
  • What's the biggest challenge in your work?
  • One of our core programs at RMHC Central Texas is our Healing Hearts program where we support families who have lost a child. This is one of the biggest challenges we face at RMHC. We become close to the families who are staying with us and our hope with every one of them is that their child will get better and they will be able to leave RMHC and go home. With some families this is not the ending that we see. We provide support through burial assistance funds, bereavement support groups, and an annual memorial service (in collaboration with March of Dimes). Additionally families are presented with an engraved river rock to be placed in our memory garden. It is incredibly difficult to say goodbye to a child - the only solace is knowing that we provide families with comfort and support during this horrible time.
  • What's the best advice that you have ever received?
  • Treat your non-profit like a business. Be professional, transparent and pay attention to customer care and service!
  • What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
  • - If you don't have a background in finance and budgeting, take a class or get some training. Understanding the money in and money out is critical.

    - Find a support group of peers outside your own agency. Being an executive director can be lonely and it helps to have the ear of another executive director when you want to vent and/or need advice and support.

    - Carve out time for you to rest and refresh. The tendency as a new executive director may be to work non-stop because as we all know there is always more work to be done. This is a recipe for disaster. It's not good for you, your co-workers or your clients. Figure out what helps you recharge and carve out time to do that.

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