There’s a kitchen in Kent to call their own

The women living in transitional housing upstairs at Titusville Station will soon have a kitchen to share, thanks to the volunteer efforts of a local women’s group.

  • Saturday, May 17, 2008 12:00am
  • News

Vernalisa Colon

Club makes it possible for women to cook

The women living in transitional housing upstairs at Titusville Station will soon have a kitchen to share, thanks to the volunteer efforts of a local women’s group.

The South King County chapter of the Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs —SOKICO for short — raised approximately $25,000 to convert a storage room into a communal kitchen for the transitional housing facility in Kent.

The transitional housing program at Titusville Station, at the corner of First Avenue and Gowe Street, is operated by Multi-Service Center. It offers a safe, structured environment for women recovering from substance abuse to live in for up to two years while they get back on their feet.

Currently, Titusville’s 15 residents can only cook with small electric appliances that fit into their dorm-style rooms: hot plates, microwaves and electric kettles. That means no baked birthday cakes when their children visit. No casseroles to share with a friend. Nothing that can’t be fried, steamed, boiled or nuked.

Multi-Service Center has long wanted to add a full kitchen to the Titusville facility, but couldn’t afford the price tag, according to Traci Krieg, case manager for the Titusville women’s program.

“It’s healthier for them to cook and not be frying everything,” Krieg said, adding that a better menu isn’t the only benefit a communal kitchen will offer.

“The main thing is community.”

Krieg explained that many of the women who come through the Titusville program don’t have families or other outside support systems to lean on. Those solitary women, if left cloistered in their own rooms, run the greatest risk of relapsing into alcohol or drug abuse, she noted. Cooking and sharing meals together gives the women a chance to build relationships, which may be key in keeping them on the track to good health and decision-making.

“I’m really excited about the kitchen,” said Vernalisa Colón, resident at Titusville for the past year and a half. “This is going to bring an opportunity to do some things together, and break the mold of just isolating.”

When complete, the 14-foot by 16-foot room will house two stand-up freezers and a full refrigerator, as well as an oven, four-burner stovetop, sink and counter area, and cupboards stocked with pots, pans and dishes. There also will be a dining table and chairs in the center of the room, according to the architect’s drawing.

All the funding and labor for the project has been provided by SOKICO members, with help from friends and family.

“I have a daughter and son-in-law who are architects,” explained club member Carolyn Johnson. Those two, Jon and Kristi Dwight of Dwight Studios, donated their time to design the kitchen, Johnson said.

On May 13, several older men in overalls and work shirts could be seen assembling white kitchen cabinets in the Titusville living room. All were either husbands of the SOKICO club members, or good friends of the family.

The club members themselves will step in to paint the room — light blue and light green — once the cabinets and appliances have been installed.

Finding willing hands to help was the easy part. The club also had to raise $25,000 to pay for the project. The cost “was more than we expected,” said Johnson mildly.

“It was more money than we’ve ever had,” added Nancy Jones, a fellow SOKICO club member.

However, after two fundraising auctions, the club had raised the entire sum.

“Once people understood what we were doing and why, people were very generous,” said Jones.

Johnson and Jones said they’re hoping to see the kitchen finished by mid-June.

It’s been a long time coming. Johnson initially proposed the project to the women’s club three years ago after visiting a couple of Titusville residents. The club greenlighted the project, and Multi-Service Center eagerly accepted the offer.

“They were excited immediately,” Jones said.

But fundraising, planning and getting permits all take time. It wasn’t till April 25 of this year — with funds, plans and permits in hand — that club members began work on the room.

As the kitchen nears completion, Jones said that SOKICO is now looking for donors to help supply the smaller furnishings: pots, pans, cooking utensils, plates, mugs and the like.

Once completed, the kitchen will bring new opportunities for residents, but it also will bring some challenges. Krieg said that Multi-Service Center staff still need to work out the details for sharing one kitchen among 15 women.

“Those are things we’re going to have to figure out,” said Krieg when asked about the logistics, including how to divvy up cleaning chores and what to do when two or more people want to use the oven at the same time. “This is definitely going to be an experiment.”

For more information about SOKICO, or to donate to the Titusville project, contact Jones at 253-854-3684 or Johnson at 253-896-0650. For more information about Multi-Service Center, call 253-835-7678, ext. 104, or visit the Web site www.multi-servicecenter.com.

Contact staff writer Christine Shultz at 253-872-6600, ext. 5056, or cshultz@reporternewspapers.com.

Get involved

SOKICO is looking for donors to supply funds or items to fill the cupboards in the new kitchen at Titusville Station. To donate, call 253-854-3684 or 253-896-0650.

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