Palos firefighters find new flame: made-over kitchen
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org June 26, 2012 10:10PM
A before picture and the now finished kitchen makeover part of an IKEA contest at Palos Fire Station in Palos Park, Illinois, Tuesday, June 26, 2012. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 28, 2012 6:21AM
For the first time ever, there’s no confusion about whose food is whose in the kitchen at Station One of the Palos Fire Protection District.
With all three shifts now having their own pantry and fridge — after a $25,000 kitchen makeover — leftovers no longer will mysteriously vanish.
It’s a change for the better, say the firefighters at the station, 8815 W. 123rd St., in Palos Park.
Best of all, the makeover didn’t cost the taxpayers of the financially strapped district a penny. The fire district got the kitchen makeover via a contest decided by an online vote.
The station was up against four others in the final round, but, in typical Chicago fashion, help was enlisted for voter turnout, with supporters even recruiting soldiers overseas to vote for Palos. The contest was sponsored by a Reader’s Digest publication, The Family Handyman, and Ikea.
The stunning results surely would please any homeowner.
“It was so nice nobody wanted to touch the new stuff,” firefighter/paramedic Tom Foley said at a makeover unveiling Tuesday.
Those jitters are gone. So is the old kitchen, which was “moldy and falling apart,” Foley said.
“We love our new kitchen. It’s nice to have something we can take pride in,” he said. “I was worried about it looking like it wouldn’t fit in, but I’m happy with it.”
Ikea spokeswoman Wanda Fisher, who conducted a tour Tuesday, said, “Now each shift, when they prepare food for their shift, doesn’t have to worry about someone else eating it.”
Firefighter/paramedics Nick Agostinelli and Jim Hackett worked with Ikea to design the kitchen.
In the center stands a huge island with a polished stone countertop where dishes can be prepared and set for serving. Drawers that contain utensils and plates have a cushioning effect that prevent them from being slammed loudly, Fisher said.
“They had lots of challenges — cabinet doors that were missing, doors off their hinges, no door beneath the sink, leaky sinks and faucets, floor tile coming up off the floor, a very small space for the pantry, all kinds of issues,” Fisher said.
Dark wood cabinets have replaced the lightly colored ones that were missing doors. Overhead lights replaced the fluorescent lights that gave the kitchen an institutional feel.
One holdover is the sturdy, industrial-sized stove with two ovens and 10 burners. It has a stainless steel finish, matching the new two sinks and the community fridge that have been added. That fridge is where all three shifts keep shared condiments, such as salad dressing, steak sauce and perhaps the largest bottle of hot sauce in the Southland.
Each shift is responsible for preparing three meals a day, so the kitchen gets plenty of use. They’ve been using it for two weeks — not that a visitor could tell.
“If you ever stop being a firefighter, you’re fully trained to be a janitor. The one thing you always do is clean,” Foley said.
The fire district got into the contest thanks to administrative assistant Marianne DeHaan, of Crestwood, who learned about it while watching a cable TV show about home renovations. About 300 firehouses nationwide entered.
In her application, DeHaan wrote that the firefighter/paramedics “are performing CPR (Cabinet Partial Removal) when necessary.”
Palos “got out the vote,” Fisher said, with 108,339 votes, nearly 20,000 more than the runner-up firehouse in Yonkers, N.Y.
Foley thinks the contest, and talk of a merger with the Orland Fire Protection District, may have persuaded residents to pass a 25-cent tax rate increase in the March election.
“People saw how bad it was in here,” he said.
Now, residents call and ask if they can stop in for a peek, DeHaan said.