Archived Kitchen Project News

May 4, 2022

The First Unitarian Kitchen is most definitely now closed! 

Deconstruction of our kitchen took a major leap forward this week as a muscular team of volunteers removed ALL the cabinets and counters on Tuesday.   This was an amazing effort with a great crew completing the work in under three hours!   Here is the team; from left, Al Powers,  Ann Mowery, Tom Thurtell, Ron Heideman, Sherwin Back and Walter Pearson.   

Awaiting their move to Habitat Restore, the cabinets are temporarily stowed in Griffin Hall.   

There is an old adage, the lost is always found.  Might these keys belong to someone in the congregation?   If so, you can collect them from our new Director of Finance and Administration Alice Stewart. 

At the auction, held as part of last Saturday’s FFFFF, we received a successful bid for the ten-burner, two-oven Wolf range!  It will be removed this weekend; watch for next week’s KP update for more info about its new owner.  All auction proceeds will be added to the Kitchen Project Fund. 

Al Powers has also been busy disconnecting stuff in the kitchen.   He turned off the gas and water lines, removed the garbage disposal, fire extinguishers and Bunn coffee system for future use.  Asbestos removal will begin Monday, May 16 and should be fully completed with the all clear by Wednesday, May 18, after the required air testing. 

Behind the scene, there is a whole lotta work going on as the Furnishings and Aesthetics Committees are selecting new cabinets and kitchen equipment.  Watch for their reports in future updates!   

Here are more photos of the team removing the cabinets and counters. 

And here is the final product!

April 29, 2022

Emptying Our Kitchen is Filling Other Needs in the Community 

Deconstruction of our kitchen continues. If you take a peek inside, you will notice the dishwasher is gone (it has been sighted sitting in Al Powers driveway waiting recycling).  Among other recent steps has been the removal and donation of our old kitchen dishes and items used for preparing food to two of Des Moines’ largest homeless shelters.  

The schedule to begin contractor work in the kitchen has changed (we take them when they are available!).  Asbestos removal will begin May 16th followed by the floor refinishing.  That means the kitchen will be closed beginning May 1st as the water will be shut off that day    All cabinets, counters, and other items sold at the April 30th auction must be removed before May 16.  Ron Heideman is coordinating the removal of the cabinets on May 3rd with help from Tom Thurtell, Walter Pearson, and Sherwin Back. 

Pat Headley, our KP Furnishings Committee chair, reports that our many dishes, bowls, saucers, silverware and a few serving bowls went to Catholic Charities’ Warehouse in the city’s River Bend neighborhood. They are seeing dozens of Afghan refugees in their programs and need to help them get settled. Pat reports, “When we asked if they wanted this stuff they said ’yes’ in a hurry.”  Sam, who is the regular warehouse staff (donations are accepted 9:00 – 3:00 on Mondays) said that he appreciated the thoughtfulness that went into the selection and packing of items. 

Several commercial-sized pots and pans went to the Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS). This is the busiest free meal site in the area, preparing hundreds of meals daily. They were excited to add these items to their kitchen. Pat added that the furnishings committee feels good about finding such fitting places to donate our kitchen supplies.  

 All project committees have been hard at work reviewing final drawings and cost estimates from the architect.  Not surprising that inflation and supply chain issues have raised the total estimate.  After much discussion over each line item and several revisions, the estimated cost now matches the funds committed to the renovation.  Good work by all! 

Reminder:  the auction of cabinets, counters, refrigerators, stove and other items is this Saturday, April 30, during the PPP and FFFFF event at the church.  Ron Heideman will be on hand to answer questions and assist with the bidding.   

April 20, 2022




A lot of work has been happening behind the scenes this past month to prepare our church kitchen for its renovation. Because the first piece of the deconstruction involves removing the current flooring (due to the asbestos in it), this week’s Kitchen Project update is like a business closing ad: “Everything Must Go!” Or, as KP volunteer Ron Heideman puts it, “The End is Near” for clearing out the kitchen!


To facilitate that work, the KP Logistics Committee will hold a silent auction of the cabinets, counters, appliances and miscellany to any and all interested parties. The auction will coincide with the Saturday, April 30th, PPP and FFFFF events at the church that evening. Ron will be on hand during the auction to answer questions and assist bidders. Below is the listing of the available items; note that most items must not be removed before May 23, the closing date for all kitchen usage. To see photos of these items, go to our Kitchen Project web page (insert link).


Help make way for our kitchen remodel! Take a look at these items and choose your memorial keepsake from the old kitchen days! Unless otherwise noted, all items must be removed from the building between May 23-31. Silent Auction April 30th during the FFFFF. Questions or to make early bids, contact Ron Heideman.

Click through the gallery below to read the description and minimum bid for each image.


Other items not pictured:

  • South Wall Lower Cabinets with Counter Top 4 units-3 doors, two columns of 4 drawers, 24”deep. Buyer must transport. Available: from May 23-31 Min bid $5
  • Stainless Steel Utility Table The pots and pans table just inside the kitchen door. Buyer must transport. Available: from May 23-31 Min bid $20

April 13, 2022

Why does our renovated kitchen need a grease trap? 

The short answer is it is required by city code.  Here is the long answer:  First, KP Construction Committee Chair Al Powers corrected our terminology,  “It isn’t a grease trap, those are small smelly units installed in the kitchen.  Fortunately, we get to avoid the stench with a unit installed outside the building; these are called “interceptors” and look something like a septic tank.”   Thanks for that technical edit, Al!   Now, to the why do we need one.

The Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority (WRA) implemented the Fat, Oil, and Grease (FOG) Ordinance in 2006 to help decrease the number of grease-related sewer blockages, backups, and sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs).  FOG can block our kitchen drain, our neighbors’ drain and main collection lines, potentially becoming an environmental and public health risk.   The primary goal of the FOG Ordinance is to eliminate FOG-related sanitary sewer overflows.  All WRA communities collectively adopted the FOG Ordinance in 2006 and have since seen a significant reduction in SSOs, FOG-related sewer blockages, and FOG buildup in the public wastewater collection system.

The FOG Ordinance defines a Food Service Establishment (FSE) as “an operation or enterprise that stores, prepares, packages, serves, vends, or otherwise provides food for human consumption.”   This includes, but is not limited to, restaurants, bars, schools, daycares, churches, nursing homes, bakeries, grocery stores, caterers, food/meat processors and other food preparation operations.  Every FSE is required to have a grease interceptor installed when any remodeling affects the kitchen drains.

What is FOG?

The short answer is it is the congealed gunk washed from kitchen drains.   Here is the long answer:  FOG refers to the fat, oil and grease that are generated from normal operations of FSEs.  FOG is commonly washed into the plumbing system during clean-up through the kitchen sink.  As it cools, it congeals and decreases pipe capacity both inside the building drain pipes and in the main sewer system.

Where will this grease interceptor  be located?

The unit needs to be outside the building and in a location where it can be routinely emptied.  The clean out involves pumps, hoses and a collection truck so best if it is near a street or parking area.  It also needs to be near the city sewer line.

The design is being finalized, but the most likely location is in the sidewalk directly west of the west entrance doors.  The corners of the proposed location are marked with paint stripes.

The size of the unit is determined by the maximum number of meals that will be served and how often meals will be served.  Based on serving a maximum of 125 meals on an occasional basis the minimum size is 2,150 gallons.  The smallest standard size that is readily available is 5,000 gallons, so that is what will be installed.

What the heck does this interceptor look like?

The interceptor is a concrete tank (kinda like a septic tank) about 9 ft wide, 16 ft long, and 6 ft deep.  It will be buried with the top of the tank about 4 ft below grade.  There will be six (6) manhole covers set in the sidewalk and the adjacent drive that will allow access to the interceptor for inspection, cleaning and maintenance.

The city code requires that the unit be inspected and cleaned every three months, unless it is shown that less frequent cleaning is adequate.  Because of the expected low usage of our kitchen and the fact that our unit will be larger than required by the code, we expect that cleaning will only be required about once every 2 or 3 years.  The city and the WRA will probably require us to have it inspected at 3 and 6 months.  We can then establish a cleaning schedule based on the results of the initial inspections.  So there you have the why? what? and how? of a grease trap, oops, “interceptor.”

April 5, 2022

It Takes a Wide Area Code to Raise a Church Kitchen

One of the many things that make UUs “uunique” is the fact that most congregations – whether in large metropolitan areas or smaller cities – have members living in dozens of zip codes.  Our congregation is no exception – not only does our membership directory include every Polk County community but many in surrounding counties and beyond.  We draw several members from adjacent counties, especially Dallas.  Story County is understandably an exception due to the presence of the Ames UU Fellowship.

Our Kitchen Renovation Project — like our entire congregational life — involves many people from well beyond the city limits of Des Moines.

First Unitarian volunteer Ron Heideman is a “communitarian” from outside Polk County, having lived in Indianola since 1977.

Ron is one of several First Unitarian members who live in Warren County, which includes Norwalk, Carlisle and Indianola.   Our two Heidi Ls (Lackmann and Levine) are also Warren residents and both are serving on the project Aesthetics Committee.  That group is planning the design and functionality of cabinets, counters, wall colors, flooring and the like (more on that in a future story).

Ron joined First Unitarian three years ago and was drawn to the Kitchen Project with a particular interest in making the new facility as environmentally friendly as possible and also recognizing that he has a variety of skills that would come in handy as the effort develops.  He readily agreed to join the Logistics Committee and has already contributed in many ways, including managing the removal of the wooden roller that used to close the kitchen counter opening.  Ron has also helped with the process of clearing the kitchen, lending a comforting and compassionate presence as the dishwasher passed away and engineering the temporary removal/relocation of other appliances, such as the refrigerator shown below.

Ron also serves on the church’s Green Sanctuary team and is very interested in recycling as much as possible of the “stuff” that needs to be removed from the old kitchen.  To that end he will be managing an auction of our dated but very utilitarian kitchen cabinets.  “I want to avoid sending the cabinets to the landfill.  We’ll give church members the opportunity to use them in their homes or we’ll donate them to Habitat Restore.”    (Watch for the auction date and details in next week’s update.)

From the near and not-so-near metro area, the mix of individuals and families who constitute the First Unitarian Church of Des Moines make our congregation a community; a community filled with talented and willing volunteers, enabling us to move things like the Kitchen Project from concept to reality. Thank you, Ron Heideman, for being on our KP team!

March 30, 2022

We reached out to Kitchen Project Co-Chair Ann Mowery to answer our pressing question about why there is a hole in the kitchen wall where the pull down door was?   

Turns out the architect just needed to determine how the supports were put into that wall since we will be removing part of it.  Al Powers knocked the hole in the wall and photographed what was inside.  So, no chance we will see any of the Cassidy Hole-in-the-Wall gang hiding in there. 

Al has also been working with the architect on the best site for the grease trap.  They are needing to find a spot that is accessible for easy clean-out and away from our beautiful oak trees.  He expects to write a separate contract for the grease trap and begin that work before the kitchen construction.   

Ann also reported that a complete set of drawings from the architect are expected on April 1st (no fooling) for our final review.  All the project committees will review these for any final changes before they will be used to solicit bids from contractors.  “We are hoping to present the final design with a plan on how to secure a contractor to the Board of Trustees on April 21,” Ann reported. 

“The schedule for closing the kitchen is totally dependent on when a contractor can start work. That will not be before May 23; however, it may be later depending on the contractor’s schedule.”   The Logistics  Committee will be responsible for emptying the kitchen at the appropriate time.  This will include taking down the cupboards, removing appliances, and finding storage or a new home for the contents.   

Well, they certainly didn’t waste any time removing appliances!  Eric Hayes along with stalwart volunteer Ron Heideman was caught hauling one of the refrigerators to the large activity room for Family Promise use.  Thanks to Marilyn Lantz for the photos of this move.   

Stay tuned for future news of the cabinets auction and the re-homing of various kitchen odds and ends. 

March 22, 2022

The Kitchen Project is moving beyond the kitchen.   But First Unitarian folks can rest easy; the planned “kitchen creep” is limited to a small area where currently no one spends time and which is underutilized for its original purpose. 

As a result of thoughtful consideration of space, function and aesthetics by our crackerjack volunteers, the Kitchen Project will include relocation of our Memorial Committee’s silver coffee/tea service, glass dishes and cups, and good china to a new secure storage unit in Griffin Hall.  

Memorial Committee Chair Susan Jellinger is excited about this move.  “I had mentioned moving the old  cabinets from the kitchen to this space, so this idea of actually building new cabinets sounds fantastic!” 

The new secure storage cabinets will be in the southwest corner of Griffin Hall that most of the time could be described as behind the piano (as that is where the piano seems to spend most of its time). The space is to the left of a cabinet where audio equipment is stored and was originally conceived of as coat storage, but evidence is scant that it has ever been used as such.  

Why is this a good idea?  Well, for one, it will free up space in the new kitchen design allowing for more versatility of storage space and more room for people to move about.  But as much as anything, time and experience have proven that the “good dishes and silver pieces” are mainly used at events that take place in Griffin Hall.  So logically, it makes sense to have the coffee/tea silver set and fine tableware where they are to be used.  Of course, once used, they’ll still need to be conveyed to the kitchen for cleaning but when dry can be returned to their new home in Griffin Hall.  So if you smell sawdust in that part of Griffin Hall, it won’t be because someone sawed the legs off the piano but instead will indicate the creation of new shelving and cabinetry representing improved form and function. 

By the way, look for more on the history of the silver coffee/tea set in subsequent Kitchen Project updates. 

March 18, 2022

Deconstructing a Kitchen: Part I

As the Kitchen Project has moved from concept to reality, those of you who’ve been in the building recently may well have noticed some changes. A few items have been removed. Last week the demise of the dishwasher was reported. To an extent, any renovation follows a logical progression of removal of “layers” of a sort. For example, before you can eat the fruit of a banana, the skin has to be peeled away. Or in construction projects, for instance, old cabinetry has to be removed from walls before being replaced.


Kitchen Project Committee member Ron Heideman determined last week that the wooden roller door and its supporting track framing the kitchen counter window should be among the first things to go. And go it did. Ron and Walter Pearson worked two hours on a Saturday morning to remove the door and associated parts.



Ron stated, “I specialize in demolition! It’s fun to take things apart and see how they work. Taking off the vertical wood revealed the counterweight channel. Each channel had a 75 pound lead weight fastened by a heavy cable to the top of the door. It took both of us to ease the weights out of the channels to the counter. Neither of us had a truck, so Walter cut the 150 pound door into 24” pieces to transport in his small SUV.”


The Kitchen Committee decided that everything removed from the kitchen would be reused or recycled as much as possible. The door will be cut into small pieces and fashioned into memorabilia. So at least part of the “old” kitchen will live on in another form or forms. The lead will be recycled at Scrap Processors of Iowa. You can see pictures here of parts removed during the rollerectomy (photos courtesy of Ron).

Look for more updates in the Intercom and on this website page as the process moves forward and other “layers” disappear. In some cases, there will be requests, such as clearing various forgotten serving pieces that populate the cabinets. Other articles will be appeals to adopt such items as the cabinets and stove, when the time comes for those items to move to a good home in exchange for a modest donation. Watch for updates!

March 11, 2022: Obituary For A Dishwasher

Obituary For A Dishwasher

The First Unitarian Kitchen Dishwasher (pictured here) died this past Tuesday, March 1.  It was 65 years old and had a long, productive life. Cause of death was age-related complications. The massive appliance did not have an official name but was called many things, most of which can’t be printed here, especially in recent years as it became more fussy and crotchety in its old age. The death was announced by Ann Mowery, who co-chairs the Church’s Kitchen Project Committee. “Its time had come; probably about a dozen years ago. But with TLC, duct tape and occasional makeshift spare parts, the thing managed to hang on well past its natural life,” reported Mowery.

Burial will be private. In lieu of flowers or detergent, anyone wishing to honor the dishwasher is encouraged to donate to the Kitchen Project Fund, which is covering funeral expenses. Those using the kitchen in the near future are reminded that until a new dishwasher is installed, dishes and utensils that would normally be washed will need to be washed by hand or of the disposable variety. As of this writing, the back shelves are well stocked with paper, plates, cups, bowls etc.

March 4, 2022: Kitchen Project Subcommittees are Up and Cookin’!

from the Kitchen Project Committee

Kitchen Project Committee: Ann Mowery and Dagny Fidler, co-chairs, Mary Ellen Miller, Ron Heideman, Fern Stewart
  • Construction Oversight: Al Powers, Chair; Dagny Fidler, Scribe; Bob Brunia, Dana Sorenson, Jan Svec, Tom Thurtell
  • Logistics: Ann Mowery, Chair; Linda Appelgate, Eric Hayes, Ron Heideman, Marilyn Lantz, Fern Stewart, Janet Thurtell
  • Aesthetics: Karen Kraemer, Chair; Janelle Bailey, Heidi Lackmann, Heidi Levine, Cheryl Long, Chelsea Hayes for consultation; Ann Mowery
  • Furnishings: Pat Headley, Chair; Kevin Boeckholt, Eric Hayes, Terry Lowman, Fern Stewart, Dagny Fidler, Liaison to Construction Oversight and Ad Hoc; Ann Mowery
  • Communications: Mary Ellen Miller, Chair; Kathryn Sutton, Tim Wilson, Deidre Fudge; updating information on the project’s progress, documenting the project’s history, creating a table display in the Gathering Area, and producing monthly Sunday service Spotlights
  • Fundraising: Mary Ellen Miller, Chair; Linda Appelgate, Karen Herwig, Steve Herwig, Marilyn Lantz, Cheryl Long, Ann Mowery.
If you have questions or wish to volunteer, please contact the appropriate chair. To learn about each committee’s work, check out those job descriptions on our new Kitchen Project website page.
The Communications Committee is still seeking volunteers to help with: 1) producing the monthly Sunday Service Spotlight about the KP, 2) create a permanent history of the renovation (photos, video, narrative), and 3) create a table top display about the KP for the Gathering Area and keep it fresh between Sunday services.
Scheduling Note: The Kitchen Project Committee is uncertain when the church will be without a functioning kitchen but is currently asking for no rentals in Griffin Hall from May 23, 2022 through the New Year. Once we have a contractor selected and dates to work with, we can change the scope of the closure. We know this might affect Hospitality, Wednesday night programming, Food Fair Events that people might want to offer, rentals, forums, etc. During the construction, there will be no water or sinks or cooking available from the kitchen and there may be items stored in Griffin Hall. If you have questions, reach out to Ann Mowery.

Feb. 25, 2022:

2022 First Unitarian Kitchen Project Committees & Duties

Kitchen Project Committee:  Ann Mowery and Dagny Fidler, co-chairs, Mary Ellen Miller, Ron Heideman, Fern Stewart

  • Construction Oversight: Al Powers, Chair; Dagny Fidler, Scribe; Bob Brunia, Dana Sorenson, Jan Svec, Tom Thurtell
  • Logistics: Ann Mowery, Chair; Linda Appelgate, Eric Hayes, Ron Heideman, Marilyn Lantz, Fern Stewart, Janet Thurtell
  • Aesthetics: Karen Kraemer, Chair; Janelle Bailey, Heidi Lackmann, Heidi Levine, Cheryl Long, Chelsea Hayes for consultation; Ann Mowery, Ad Hoc
  • Furnishings: Pat Headley, Chair; Kevin Boeckholt, Eric Hayes, Terry Lowman, Fern Stewart, Dagny Fidler, Liaison to Construction Oversight and Ad Hoc; Ann Mowery, Ad Hoc
  • Communications: Mary Ellen Miller, Chair; Kathryn Sutton, Tim Wilson, Deidre Fudge, Ad Hoc; TBA—still need people to put together the project’s history, displays in the Gathering Area, and produce Spotlights
  • Fundraising: Mary Ellen Miller Chair; Linda Appelgate, Karen Herwig, Steve Herwig, Marilyn Lantz, Cheryl Long, Ann Mowery.


Kitchen Project Committee Duties:

  1. Answers design questions, e.g., adding a small undercounter dishwasher and bar sink
  2. Oversee the renovation of the kitchen;
  3. Oversee the decommissioning and recommissioning of the kitchen;
  4. Oversee the expenditure of funds raised for the project;
  5. Request the use of any funds needed from Endowment;
  6. Recommend to the Board what to do with any leftover funds;
  7. Assure that the Congregation is being informed about the progress of the project;
  8. Oversee and coordinate the work of all the subcommittees.

Construction Oversight Duties:

  1. Work with the architect to finalize the design;
  2. Determine the process for retaining a contractor (design build or design bid build) and recommend contractual procedures to the Board for its approval;
  3. Review contractor proposals and recommend a contractor to be retained by the church;
  4. Work with the architect and contractor to develop a project schedule;
  5. Review construction progress;
  6. Address questions that come up during the course of construction;
  7. Work with the architect and contractor to authorize minor changes to the design;
  8. Review and recommend Board approval of any change orders requested by the contractor that change the cost of the project or other terms of the contract;
  9. Review and recommend approval for contractor’s payment applications;
  10. Work closely with the architect and contractor on all aspects of the design and construction, representing the church’s interests in the project.

Logistics Duties:

  1. Determine when the kitchen needs to cease use and notify those making rentals;
  2. Work with the Furnishings Committee, Hospitality Committee, Memorial Committee and staff to determine what items should be kept for long term use;
  3. Plan for and oversee the disposition and removal of all items from the kitchen, including appliances and cupboards, with a focus on re-use, re-purposing and recycling;
  4. Plan with staff and appropriate committees, e.g., Hospitality, Memorials, where items are to be stored during construction and oversee their storage;
  5. Conduct an inventory of the items to be stored and supply this information to the aesthetics committee.
  6. Work with Hospitality to address what services can be offered during the time the kitchen is closed and how to provide them.
  7. Work with the Furnishings Committee to restock the kitchen at the end of the construction.

Aesthetics Duties:

  1. Work with the architect to select finishes—counter tops, cabinets, paint, chairs, table, etc.;
  2. Works with the architect to identify how we will recognize donors, e.g., wall tiles; select mechanism, and work with the Fundraising Committee to get everyone named appropriately.

Furnishings Duties:

  1. Work with the architect to select appliances;
  2. Select and purchase (after approval of the Kitchen Committee) dishes, silverware, glassware, pots and pans, etc., needed to make the kitchen functional and meal serving possible, e.g., new tables for Griffin Hall;
  3. Provide information to the Logistics Committee on space requirements;
  4. Plan orientation for the church community on how to use appliances, etc.

Communications Duties:

  1. Submit biweekly Intercom article;
  2. Arrange for a monthly Spotlight during the Sunday service;
  3. Work with Communications to have up-to-date information about the project on the website, Facebook and other forms of media;
  4. Create a history of the project;
  5. Set up a display area in the Gathering Space;
  6. Snail mail a project update to donors and volunteers midway through the project;
  7. Special invitation to the celebration brunch.

Fund Raising Duties:

  1. Thank donors;
  2. Provide list of donors to Aesthetics Committee for recognition;
  3. Follow up on pledges that have not been paid.