Highlights from Bethany: Kitchen Transformation: From Grimy to Gleaming

Confirmations seem to fill the walls of the Bethany Baha’i Centre of Learning as dedicated volunteers work to bring the centre up to code.

Emad Toukan, Property Manager at Bethany, invited Hamed Saberi to give input into the kitchen renovation at the centre. Not only is Hamed a professional kitchen designer and cabinet maker but he also has experience volunteering as a supervisor in a soup kitchen in Oshawa that caters for up to 150 people.

Hamed immediately saw that the cabinetry and flooring needed to be replaced. As for the layout, he said, It was the worst! 

Hamed completely overhauled the design of the kitchen from floor to ceiling. The new design will serve the large number of people relying on it to keep them well fed during future trainings.

 “In addition to looking good, it will be waterproof, sturdy and flexible,” he said.

Emad initially consulted Anthony Lohan about lawnmowers and pest control for Bethany before asking him to help with the kitchen renovation. Anthony, who has a background in landscaping and renovation said, “It’s almost harder to do a renovation because you have to match the old with the new and figure out when to stop pulling things down.”

To Anthony, the kitchen is the heart of the facility.“When it is fully functioning, it will support everything else.”

Consultation helped to determine what needed to be done to prepare the space for the installations and flooring. Appliances that could be salvaged included: an industrial dishwasher, two stoves, a massive fridge/cooler and two sinks, all of which had to be disconnected and moved. Volunteers sanded the grimy stoves down to gleaming metal. They tore down the cabinetry and ripped up the old vinyl flooring – no small feat in this 30 by 20-foot room. Aida Ghodrati, one of a number of hard working volunteers, couldn’t feel her knuckles for two days after removing a portion of concrete flooring with a hammer.

To ensure all construction is up to code professional tradesmen are required, and there was never a lack of helping hands.It’s like a miracle,” said Hamed. “All we have to do is think about what help we need next and Bahá’ís in those trades arise to meet that need.”  

In the final stages of their prep work, while David Gossen installed drywall, Anthony replaced a flimsy divider leading to the basement with help from Emily Dragoman. Though Emily is an experienced woodworker herself, she had never built a wall before. “But I followed Anthony’s lead,” she said. “He made the cuts and I installed all the different pieces. We built an extremely strong knee wall.”

Emily said she was “blown away” by the number of volunteers who have achieved so much despite the challenges of working during a pandemic. No doubt those sacrificial souls are indeed, as Hamed said, “…doing it for Baháʼu’lláh.”

A version of this article originally appeared here.

Read more about Bethany here and feel free to join their mailing list here.

Anthony Lohan and Emily Dragoman build a knee wall in the kitchen.

Get in touch with the neighbourhood team in this story, or share your own learning with Ontario Baha’i here.

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