As the Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, Mona Johnson-Gibson gives families a soft place to land during tough times — providing a home away from home that’s filled with love and comfort. With hundreds of people under one roof, all with different needs, there’s no typical day for Mona, but she sat down with us to give us her best piece of advice and share how she pushes through the toughest days. We are honored to introduce today’s FACE of Charlotte, Mona Johnson-Gibson of Ronald McDonald House.
Tell us a little about your background and how you got involved with the Ronald McDonald House.
My last boss always said, “Mona has a weird background.” I like to think I have a very diverse, interesting background! My graduate degree is in counseling, and most of my career I have come to positions where there is no program, no building, no staff, and I build it from the ground up.
When I came to the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte (RMH) in 2008, the Board of Directors felt they needed a certain type of person then, a business developer, a marketer, a fundraiser. Then later the person would need to oversee the design of the House — the construction. As the House was about to open this person would need to begin to set the House up, to hire and train staff, set policies and procedures and then to welcome in the first families. As the doors opened and with hundreds of people under one roof on most days, the Board of Directors felt it probably would not hurt to have an old counselor at the helm.
How’d you decide to make the career change?
In a way it was not really a career change. I had always worked in not-for-profit/nonprofit/government, and interestingly I had usually come to projects that did not exist and that needed to be created or built. So in 2008, when I came to the RMH of Charlotte, there was no House, really no staff, just a concept. So my job was to get people excited about the project, raise the money to build the House, build the House, hire the staff and open the doors to the families, which we did in May of 2011!
What does a typical day look like for you?
There really is no typical day for me because there is no typical day for our families. All the staff at the House are here to meet the needs of our families, and for that reason, there is no typical day, only atypical days.
What’s the best part of your job?
Helping families, volunteers and staff accomplish what they are wanting/needing to accomplish for that day, whatever the challenge or goal is facing them for that day.
What’s the hardest part of your job and how do you power through it?
The loss of a child. While we don’t lose that many children, one is too many. I guess the way I power through is knowing that we provide the love, comfort and support the families need while they are here with us and that the majority of our families go home with a healthy, happy child.
What’s your best piece of advice?
Be kind to everyone and believe in everyone and yourself. Know that people generally want to do the right thing.
What would you tell your younger self?
Sincerely get to know as many people as you can. Help them and they will help you.
How do you like to relax and unwind?
When I can, I sit by the ocean and be still. And when I can’t, I lay in the hammock in my backyard and be with family.
What are your favorite places to eat in Charlotte?
We are so lucky — there are so many great places to eat in Charlotte. But I am SO lucky because SO many restaurants support our families and House! So just a few of my favorites are Jim ‘N Nick’s, Leroy Fox, Killingtons, Bonterra and, of course, McDonald’s!
What’s currently on your reading list that you’d suggest?
What are three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
The ocean, my glasses and lip gloss!
Thank you to Mona Johnson-Gibson for taking the time to chat with us. Also, thank you to Piper Warlick of Piper Warlick Photography for the beautiful photos.
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