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Union Gospel Mission’s new kitchen inspires fresh starts

The Union Gospel Mission's kitchen got a facelift.
Thomas Claybook carries food through the Union Gospel Mission's new kitchen.

It’s a makeover several years in the making and it could go a long way in helping others. Union Gospel Mission unveiled its new kitchen on Monday after a month of construction and $115,000 worth of renovations.

“Three-hundred sixty five days a year, 24/7, three meals a day for decades. We'll do over a million meals this year, and it just keeps climbing as we have more homeless on the streets,” said Jeff Lilley, president of Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission.

After more than 30 years of cooking up meals for the city’s homeless, the shelter’s kitchen was tired – and it showed. Before photos revealed years of water damage, dirt and grime that accumulated in the walls and floors.

“I was here when it was the old kitchen and I'd slide around on the floor. This new kitchen, I can grab a really heavy 6-inch pan of food and take it from the oven, put it in the warmers just fine,” Thomas Claybook said, explaining he stays in the men’s shelter and works in the kitchen.

Among the other new items paid for with grants and private donations: epoxy floor, tilt skillet, a combi-oven, griddle, prep tables, grease-interceptor, vents, drains and a walk-in cooler.

“Whenever they'd wash the floor, it would leak down and so inside this walk-in, literally it would be like it was raining inside of here,” Lilley said.

To avoid service interruptions, mission staffers cooked and brought in food from another location during construction, according to Lilley.

Claybrook says the makeover comes just in time for the holidays, when a fresh slate could inspire more than one fresh start.

“A lot of people I've noticed just their behavior and the attitude. It brings up a lot of people's morale,” Claybrook said. “And when your morale is brought up, it brings them up.”

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