After almost 15 years providing a medical respite home for homeless men and women healing from a serious illness or injury, the kitchen and dining room at Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Pathways to Care was in desperate need of an update. Local vendors and volunteers rallied together to create a beautiful and refreshed space for the residents and staff to enjoy.

Dawn Zinger, director of Pathways to Care, said “We had been putting money aside as the floor in the kitchen was in really bad shape. We thought if we were going to move everything then we needed to look at what else needed to be done at the time.” The final plan included new flooring, ceiling tiles, 60 light fixtures and wall painting. “We refreshed the dining room and resident activity area from top to bottom, literally with ceiling and floor tiles,” said Zinger.

The extensive kitchen refurbishment came in at approximately 60% of their original budget due to the kindness and generosity of 15 vendors, many of whom donated supplies and services, under the encouragement and direction of Pathways original contractor Russ Suddeth, co-owner of J. Raymond Construction in Longwood and parishioner of St. Stephen Parish in Winter Springs.

Half of the supplies and labor were donated by the vendors and others were given at a severe discount, including everything from electrical and tiling work to painting and drywall, stainless steel supplies and installation, plumbing, cleaning, air conditioning and refrigeration. Dominic Commesso, a parishioner from St. Stephen Parish in Winter Springs and owner of a local restaurant, was among the vendors who worked to help from the commercial perspective, donating appliances and furniture. Commesso also coordinated with Florida Stainless to install panels to improve safety.

Suddeth said, “We treated this like an extreme makeover. Between demolition and getting them back in business, because they had to pay for the trailers and cook remotely, we had them back in business in two weeks.” Northland, a Church Distributed in Longwood provided use of their kitchen during the process. Suddeth noted, “A lot of the subcontractors who were utilized are either veterans or have veterans on their staff, and I know that a lot of homeless veterans utilize the facility—it touched their heart, so they jumped in and did what they could.” Of the opportunity to serve Suddeth said, “God gives each of us talents and He puts us in places and positions where we can provide the best influence, and this was it. This is my business and this is my work and I was able to make a call out and fortunately people responded.”

Zinger is grateful for the project and its results. “It’s been a morale booster as it gives our staff the opportunity to see that the community values what happens here enough to dedicate their time, talent and treasures. It makes them very proud of what they do. It also enables them to better serve our residents,” she said.