NARI Chicago remodelers volunteer to create new kitchen in Schaumburg foster home damaged by fire

Contact: Lynn Walsh
Walsh Communications, LLC
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   November 23, 2011

NARI Chicago remodelers volunteer to create new kitchen in Schaumburg foster home damaged by fire

They say if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But a group of remodelers from the Greater Chicagoland Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) didn't back down from the challenge of creating a new kitchen for a foster parent whose Schaumburg townhome was damaged by fire last year. Thanks to their volunteered labor and the plentiful materials donated by generous suppliers, Rich Denman and his family of foster boys now have a fully functional home again. 

Denman, a 64-year-old certified public accountant, has fostered more than 20 Chicago-area boys over the past 25 years, including one child he adopted. Trained in foster parenting at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Denman welcomed his first foster child into his home the day after the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl in 1986. Over the years, many boys have benefitted from living under his roof for as short as a few months to as long as nine plus years--among them Richie Lemus, a formerly homeless 18-year-old high school senior who Denman sheltered for a time. While his four-bedroom residence is quaint, it has been sufficient to serve the needs of up to six occupants at a time. Denman's family suffered a setback, however, when a fire of unknown origin occurred in his home in early 2010, rendering the kitchen uninhabitable and causing smoke damage in other areas. Denman's homeowner's insurance company footed the bill for repairs, including a kitchen rebuild, but the first contractor assigned by the insurance company had over booked himself and could not complete the job as promised.  Keeping him on the job would have cost Denman thousands in living expenses. The second contractor he hired completed enough so Denman could move back, but had to leave the job unfinished because Denman's funds had run out. Both contractors were paid for work not completed.

Denman and his children had been living in an apartment over this time, but due to insurance constraints were forced to move back into their kitchen-less townhome after a few months. For nearly a year, they lived without the things most families take for granted, like a kitchen sink, stove, oven, dishwasher, cabinets, and countertops. 

Their luck changed, however, when a friendly UPS driver--who used to see Denman regularly at the warehouse where he used to work over five years ago--mentioned the foster father's plight to Mimi Altman, executive director of NARI of Greater Chicagoland. After visiting Denman's residence and assessing the obvious need, Altman brought Denman's case to the attention of her board of directors. They promptly voted in favor of devoting resources to this needy cause remodel as an official "NARI To the Rescue" charitable project.  

Helping to supervise the project were Mike and Donna Dew, the husband-and-wife owners of Oak Tree Construction Services in Schaumburg. Donna said her team's first major challenge was to find suppliers and vendors who would be willing to donate all the needed components--including cabinets, countertops, appliances, paint, and plumbing supplies--as well as fellow NARI of Greater Chicagoland contractors who could lend a hand with installation. 

Donna and crew began their remodeling work in early September and finished in October. In addition to revamping the kitchen, they replaced smoke-damaged carpeting on two stairways in the home.

"I was shocked that anyone would take on my project," Denman said. "I'm overwhelmed and grateful by the generosity of all these wonderful volunteers who helped me and my kids get our lives back on track. I appreciate having back all the little things you miss so much, like being able to cook and wash dishes in your own kitchen again."

Denman, who has lived in the townhome for 33 years, hopes in the near future to convert it into an independent living home for high school graduates who continue to need support--a conversion that will require pursuing state and federal grant monies. If successful, Denman would move his brood into a single-family home in Schaumburg, a town he loves too much to leave.

"It's so rewarding to take in these children and be a part of their lives as they grow up," said Denman, who added that he prefers fostering teenage and pre-teen boys because they're often the most difficult to place in homes once they turn age 10. "I will foster kids until I am physically unable, which is probably another 10 to 15 years. I may die a financially poor man, but I'll be a very rich person deep down inside."

Altman said Denman left a strong impression on her at their first meeting.  

"Rich has dedicated his life to these kids and making sure boys who need a leg up can get it. The least he deserves is to have a kitchen that works and that can at minimum adequately serve the four to five people living there at any given time," she said. "I was deeply touched by how they found a way to work around the situation of not having a functional kitchen for so long. And I was equally moved by how selflessly our members and these other companies stepped up to the challenge. This was not an inexpensive project."

In fact, Dew estimated that the value of the labor and materials involved is more than $20,000.

Good Samaritans involved in the charity project included Engstrom Plumbing in Addison; GC Carpenters in Wood Dale; Phil's Electric in Elmhurst; and Tripp Builders in Chicago. Among the suppliers, distributors, and vendors who stepped up to the plate with donations were Shapes Supply in Arlington Heights; Ferguson Plumbing in Addison; Crawford Plumbing Supply in Itasca; R & R Custom Cabinet Makers and Countertops in Palatine; GCI Contract Floors in Elmhurst; Handyman 4 Hire in Schaumburg, McDonald Associates in Rolling Meadows, Oak Tree Construction Services, Inc. in Schaumburg and JC Licht in Schaumburg. 

"We're so proud that our chapter is able to do these NARI to the Rescue projects on an as-needed basis," Dew said. "This was one of the biggest charity remodels we've been involved with so far, and it went very well. It's really a great reflection on our chapter and its members."

What's more, Dew said, "this is the kind of extra care you can expect when you hire a NARI contractor to do your work. Our members follow a stringent code of ethics and take their work very seriously."

Based in Des Plaines, The Greater Chicagoland Chapter of NARI ( is a not-for-profit trade association founded in 1987 and currently consisting of approximately 280 member companies. NARI of Greater Chicagoland is committed exclusively to the service of the local professional remodeling industry, representing professional remodeling contractors, product manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, trade and consumer publications, utilities and lending institutions. 

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