Gratitude: A Message from Annette Thurston

Posted · Add Comment

Watch the video above to hear a message from Annette Thurston, Founding Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States. Annette publicly announced her retirement in September of 2023, which was covered by KOAM and The Joplin Globe. Since then, Annette has been recognized for her service and dedication in multiple ways:

  • Annette co-hosted Living Well with Gary Bandy on December 15th, which led to surprise visits from representatives of our mission partner McDonald’s, our partnering hospitals, our founding and current Board of Directors, our staff, our volunteers, and one of the thousands of families impacted by her work.
  • A Farewell Reception was held in her honor on December 20th. Nearly 300 individuals from our Four State area gathered at Ronald McDonald House to celebrate Annette and share their appreciation. 

An excerpt from the Editorial column of The Joplin Globe, published September 20th, 2023:

Thank you, Annette Thurston.

You’ve been a godsend to this area and to the thousands of families you have helped and inspired.

Thurston, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Four States, announced her retirement to be official at the end of 2023, after 26 years.

Her legacy includes:

  • Overseeing the construction and establishment of the Ronald McDonald House in Joplin near Freeman Health System at 3402 S. Jackson Ave. (The house opened in 1998.)
  • More than 3,500 families have been helped — and counting. Families of seriously ill children from 38 states and two foreign countries have been served, and the home has provided for nearly 36,000 lodging nights.
  • “Our families come here for one reason, and that is an emergency situation. They walk through our doors as strangers, and they are embraced and supported,” Thurston told the Globe this summer.
  • Working with, inspiring and leading the House’s more than 100 volunteers.
  • Overseeing the Ronald McDonald Family Room inside Mercy Hospital Joplin in 2017, serving another 266 families for a total of 1,607 visits.

Paula Baker, president and CEO of Freeman Health System, recently told us that Thurston is one of the constants in the success of the house.

“She’s been with the building, with the development and with the many evolutions,” Baker said. “She’s given of her heart and her soul to make this house a haven for children and families who come here at a time when they need us the most.”

Thurston has been recognized as one of the area’s Most Influential Women, A Woman of Distinction, and has received other honors.

We congratulate Annette Thurston on her upcoming retirement, acknowledge with gratitude her commitment and stand in awe of her service.

“Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Yours will be big shoes to fill.