The members of the College Park, Maryland Volunteer Fire Department stood in awe of their station's new kitchen June 29, a place they spend a lot of their time when not on incident calls.
"It's a pretty sure deal that there will always be someone in here," Assistant Fire Marshal Megan Morales said at the open house. "We have the career staff, paramedics and volunteer staff, so it's a pretty busy fire station."
The revamped kitchen -- it recently received a $10,000 facelift -- was made possible through the "Spruce Up Your Firehouse" photo-essay contest presented by Maxwell House and HGTV. Nine other stations across the U.S. were awarded similar makeovers after receiving the most votes in their city.
According to contest spokesman Michael Schneider, the first-time event was a success as more than 80,000 votes were logged during the competition. College Park was the Washington D.C./Maryland winner.
Morales, who wrote the station's essay, said she was notified about the contest by the station's Deputy Chief Tyson Dickerson the day before the deadline, but is glad she decided enter.
As far as the room to make over, Morales' decision was easy. "I hated the kitchen," she said. In the essay she wrote: "We have been fortunate enough to get some grant money to keep the fire apparatus updated and safe, but our tight funds have not allowed us to update the kitchen."
When Morales learned her station was selected as one of the finalists out of the five that entered its area, she said it was easy to drum up vote support. The station neighbors the University of Maryland-College Park, which she said provided plenty of support.
"We have a really supportive community here when it comes to the university and the surrounding area," she said. "So it really helped with voting."
After College Park was selected as the winner from the Washington D.C./Maryland area, its members discussed ideas for their new kitchen with interior designer Kristan Cunningham, the host of HGTV's show "Design on a Dime." Morales said most of the ideas revolved around the cabinets, countertops and stove top, which she referred to as a "science project" in her essay.
After Cunningham had an idea of what the station's members wanted, the project was handed over to local interior designers Lisa Schworer and Trisha Royer, who both work for Interplan Inc. and headed the project for free. Both designers spent a combined 80-plus hours on remodeling the station's kitchen.
They were happy to be part of the makeover, but both said it took some creativity to make the project work. "Ten thousand dollars was a really tight budget," Schworer said. "A lot of labor was donated and most of the people involved said, 'For a fire station, sure I'll do it for free.' We were very fortunate."
As for the four weeks allotted to completed the program, Royer said, "It's a very unrealistic time frame," as she laughed with her design partner. "Basically everybody was jumping on and making it happen by giving it high priority on their schedule."
From the floors to ceilings, Royer pointed out that everything in the station had been touched. Stainless steel covered a majority of the room including cabinets, countertops and even their new commercial dish washer. Morales said the dish washer was a key as sometimes they would go through more than three residential washers per year during her three years on the department.
Overall, Morales said the department was extremely grateful and that their new kitchen would vastly improve the quality of life at station.
The nine other firehouse's selected for the $10,000 room-makeover prize, included: Roswell Fire Department in Atlanta, Tonawanda Fire Department in Buffalo, N.Y., Maywood Fire Department in Chicago, Little Miami Joint Fire and Rescue District in Cincinnati, Maple Heights Fire Department in Cleveland, Engine House 52 in Detroit, Engine 2, Ladder 3 and Medic 31 in Philadelphia, Orlando Firehouse 2 in Orlando and Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue 8 in Tampa, Fla.