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Extreme Makeover: Fire Station Kitchen Edition

Dept. won $25,000 makeover from IKEA, Family Handyman magazine; ‘It was so nice, nobody wanted to touch the new stuff,’ says FF/Medic

By Steve Metsch
Chicago Sun-Times

PALOS PARK, Il. — For the first time, there’s no more confusion about whose food is whose in the kitchen at Station One of the Palos Fire Protection District.

Now each of three shifts has its own pantry and fridge after a $25,000 kitchen makeover — and leftovers will no longer mysteriously vanish.

Best of all, the makeover didn’t cost the district a penny.

At Station One, 8815 W. 123rd St., Palos Park the kitchen got a $25,000 makeover after the district won an online contest. The station was up against four others, but, in typical Chicago fashion, voting was hard and heavy. Supporters even enlisted help from soldiers stationed overseas to get the vote out for Palos.

The contest — sponsored by a Reader’s Digest publication, the Family Handyman, and Ikea — has stunning results that would please any homeowner.

“It was so nice nobody wanted to touch the new stuff,” firefighter/paramedic Tom Foley said Tuesday.

“We love our new kitchen. It’s nice to have something we can take pride in. I was worried about it looking like it wouldn’t fit in, but I’m happy with it,” Foley said.

Firefighter/paramedics Nick Agostinelli and Jim Hackett worked with Ikea to design the kitchen. They were not available for comment Tuesday, but they “did a nice job,” Ikea marketing specialist Wanda Fisher said.

In the center of the remodeled kitchen stands a huge island with a polished stone countertop where meals can be prepared and then set up for serving. One one side of the island, near the stove, drawers contain the utensils. On the other side, near the dining table, the plates and silverware are stored in other drawers.

It’s a good setup, 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 light-colored wood cabinets. Snazzy overhead lights replaced the fluorescent lights that gave the kitchen a stark, institutional feel.

One holdover is the sturdy, industrial-sized stove with two ovens and 10 burners. It has a stainless steel finish, just like the two new sinks and the community fridge.

The fridge is where all three shifts keep their shared condiments such as salad dressing, steak sauce and perhaps the largest bottle of hot sauce around.

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 you would notice.

“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 were narrowed to five finalists, Fisher said.

Palos “got out the vote,” she said.

In her application, DeHaan wrote that the firefighter/paramedics “are performing CPR (Cabinet Partial Removal) when necessary.”

Her entry caught the voters’ attention as Palos received 108,339 votes, nearly 20,000 more than a firehouse in Yonkers, N.Y.

Copyright 2012 Chicago Sun-Times