Rotisserie chicken, vegetables, and rice. Fresh salad, warm bread, and beef sandwiches. The meals served every weekday at Catholic Charities downtown location are not just sustenance: they are food for the soul, served up by smiling volunteers with the promise of hope.

“You see a difference in the people who come here,” said Lee Ackermann, who has volunteered at the supper weekly with Holy Name Cathedral for four years. “Over time, you see them begin to smile and open up to you.”

As of last year, the kitchen that’s used to prepare the meals was falling apart. It was decades-old, with cabinets hanging off their hinges and no easy way to store and heat up food. When renowned kitchen designer Mick De Giulio heard about it, he stepped up to make a change.

“Any of us who have been to the suppers, or driven by and seen the line outside, know how important they are for those who depend on them,” De Giulio said. “I wanted to help make it easier for the groups who volunteer their time and serve.”

De Giulio, who has showrooms in Wilmette and the Merchandise Mart, has traveled the world with the mission of simplifying and beautifying kitchens for 45 years – since he was 19 years old.

“I like everything about it,” he said. “You meet interesting people and you’re making their lives better. I felt like our project with Catholic Charities was the most important project we were doing at the time.”

De Giulio recruited friends that he’s worked with over the years to donate appliances and other materials to help with the remodel. He said they all jumped at the chance to get involved.

“They were immediately in,” he said. “It was great to see people chime in and it was an honor to be a part of it. You end up getting so much more than you give.”

The 17-year-old supper program serves a hot dinner to 130 homeless and at-risk-of-homelessness individuals and families. They also prepare nearly 100 to-go meals in the kitchen every evening. The new kitchen is complete with warming drawers, ovens, stoves, industrial-size sinks, and large prep and storage areas.

“It’s made a huge difference for the volunteers,” said Claude Battat, a Holy Name volunteer who has served three times a week for eight years. “It’s a more streamlined process and allows us more time to relax and spend time with the guests.”

“The quality of the kitchen is very much appreciated,” Ackermann added. “They did a tremendous job.”

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO MADE THE KITCHEN REDESIGN POSSIBLE

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  • Maggie Amir: Countertop Material
  • Mike Dixon: BMW Plumbing
  • Angelo D’Angelov, Exotic Marble and Tile, Inc.: Countertop Fabrication, Installation
  • Dan Trabucco, Artcraft Kitchens: Cabinetry
  • Ricky Abt, Abt Electronics and Appliances: Appliances
  • Tony DiVittorio and Tony Nudo, T&T Construction: Ceilings
  • Corry Daus, Dan Ryan Electric: Electrical Services
  • Medhat Darwish, J&S Painting: Painting Services
  • Kent Stotz and Kent Kartage: Delivery and Hauling
  • Mick De Giulio, De Giulio Design: Design
  • Tom Kotel, Mid-America Tile: Ceramic Tiles