Giving Back With Ronald McDonald House Charities

At its core, the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) San Diego – Baja California Chapter was established to serve its members professionally by providing educational learning events centered on cross-border activities in the Southern California region. However, in addition to this lofty mission statement, the chapter felt a grander desire to provide opportunities to serve its local community. It was with great pride that the chapter established a working relationship with the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) in 2018 by hosting its first annual Ronald McDonald House Meal. RMHC provides a home away from home for families spending long days and nights with their hospitalized child. January 2020 marked the chapter’s third annual event volunteering at RMHC.

Over 30 members of the ACAMS San Diego – Baja California Chapter, along with a few members representing the Southern California Chapter, their families and friends came together on Thursday, January 9, 2020, to help serve families in need at the RMHC of San Diego, California. The volunteers served over 150 people hot meals on a cold, rainy night. Volunteers helped in purchasing, preparing, serving and cleaning in either two-hour or four-hour volunteer shifts. Volunteers consisted of many Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering professionals from local banks such as Axos Bank, CalPrivate Bank, Pacific Western Bank, Point Loma Credit Union and Seacoast Commerce Bank. There were also representatives from the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, Barona Resort & Casino, auditing firms and anti-money laundering service providers.

This year, in addition to serving meals, the chapter provided a craft table with fun activities, arts and crafts. The table provided the hospitalized children and their siblings, cousins and friends a chance to enjoy free time and have fun. Many volunteers also had their children join in helping at the arts and crafts table with the older volunteers.

Volunteers arrived as early as 45 minutes in advance that Thursday to report for duty. There were excited faces, familiar faces and many new ones helping at this event. Every volunteer was greeted by a board member of the chapter to help them with their duty assignment for their shift. While the majority of helpers consisted of second- and third-time volunteers, there were many people volunteering for the first time that day. Volunteers could sign up for specific jobs such as chopping, cooking, serving, bussing, dishwashing or helping with the arts and crafts table. Alternatively, volunteers had an option of helping wherever help was needed!

The first shift of the day began with board members buying all the necessary ingredients for the dinner, dessert and supplies for the arts and crafts table. That evening, the volunteers prepared a taco bar, complete with seasoned ground beef, Mexican rice, refried beans, flour and corn tortillas, a salad bar (two types of lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, broccoli and dressing), salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro and chips. Preparing for dessert was much easier, as the board purchased two large sheet cakes and a variety of cookies. The board procured supplies for the heart butterfly craft ahead of Valentine’s Day, for which supplies included red acrylic paint, clothespins, paintbrushes, red and white construction paper, school glue, scissors, googly eyes and white pipe cleaners.

During the second shift of the event, there were several volunteers preparing the ingredients for the meals. Several volunteers were washing the produce, eight choppers were diligently chopping away, two main cooks were seasoning and cooking the meals, and others helped by opening cans of food, washing dishes, preparing the iced tea and setting up the taco bar. The leaders of the arts and crafts table, Kristen Keyser of Barona Resort & Casino and Natalie Soto of Seacoast Commerce Bank, were working hard to layout the supplies for the crafts and designing samples for the children to follow.

Jessica Mares, second-time volunteer, stated that the event felt like, “being part of a community and doing something nice for them.”

There were plenty of smiles and laughter as the team prepared for the main event of the night: serving the food! Guests were welcomed with smiles by the eight servers assembling their plates. The families being served were extremely courteous, friendly and grateful for their hosted meal. Many of those being served started conversations with the volunteers asking which organization they were a part of that allowed them to volunteer.

Jernoe Camot, also a second-time volunteer, said, “I find it extremely rewarding to volunteer with ACAMS. You get to interact with other members! It is fun to learn other members’ passions outside of work and get to know them on a personal level outside of a business setting.”

As the evening began to wind down, the board observed a few of the volunteers with tears in their eyes as they interacted with a few of the patients while they ate dinner, cleaned their table or assisted them on their craft-making skills. Many of the volunteers expressed happiness once their shift ended and looked forward to their next volunteering experience. It is easy to say the ACAMS volunteers were very moved by this experience.

The event was led by the chapter’s chairs, Terry Jones and Melissa Triplett, with assistance from Eric, kitchen manager of RMHC. Eric has been with RMHC for over five years, working directly with the volunteers in the kitchen area. He oversees everything happening behind the scenes with the volunteers—from teaching how to chop cilantro and broccoli correctly, to using the dishwashing system, to measuring the correct amount of food being served.

The chapter would like to give a sincere thanks to Eric, as well as all of the volunteers, for dedicating their time and helping make this event a success. The San Diego – Baja California Chapter looks forward to continuing this event next year in 2021. Cheers to a Happy New Year!

For more information on Ronald McDonald House Charities of San Diego, please visit their website at They have many volunteer opportunities available throughout the year.

Respectfully submitted by the ACAMS San Diego – Baja California Chapter Board

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