Dillard's Snubs Local Ronald McDonald House Over Contractor Choice

Dillard’s Inc. apparently was so unhappy that its construction arm wasn’t considered to build the Ronald McDonald House in Little Rock that it withheld a donation to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkansas.

The Little Rock retailer gave more than $1 million in January to the local chapters of Ronald McDonald House Charities, thanks to sales of Dillard’s “Southern Living Christmas Cookbook,” according to a Dillard’s news release.

But none of that money will reach the Arkansas chapter, which provides a place for the families of children hospitalized in Little Rock for intensive care and long-term treatment.

The beef can be traced to the plans for a new Ronald McDonald House near Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The fundraising campaign began in December 2012 with a donation of $1 million by the Central Arkansas McDonald’s Cooperative, and so far, the House has raised $3.6 million of its $7 million goal.

Lloyd Garrison, president and CEO of CDI Contractors, a subsidiary of Dillard’s, contacted Ronald McDonald House and “expressed an interest in being considered for involvement in the new house,” according to an email sent in October by Ronald McDonald of Arkansas’ Executive Director Karen Erren to board members and read aloud to Whispers. “I told him that we’ve chosen our contractor. He was very disappointed that CDI had not been invited to submit qualifications.

“Unfortunately that disappointment has extended to leadership at Dillard’s, which as you know is a longtime national partner to Ronald McDonald House Charities,” the email said.

Erren sidestepped the allegations and said in an email statement to Whispers that Dillard’s has donated more than $14 million over the last 20 years to help local chapters fund Ronald McDonald House programs.

“In Little Rock, we have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations; Dillard’s employees have generously donated their time, talent and resources and we deeply appreciate their support of our events and fundraisers which have allowed us to serve more than 20,000 families since we first opened,” Erren said in the statement.

Julie Bull, a spokeswoman for Dillard’s, said the company doesn’t comment on donations at the local level.

The contractor chosen for the new Ronald McDonald House is Nabholz Construction Corp. of Conway. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2015. Nabholz referred questions about the project to Arkansas’ Ronald McDonald House.

It was unclear how much Dillard’s gave the Arkansas Ronald McDonald House in 2013 or 2012. But in 2011, Dillard’s awarded the Arkansas chapter more than $64,000 from the sales of the cookbooks. That amount was about 7 percent of the nonprofit’s revenue of $918,669 generated during 2011, according to its IRS tax filing.