Kitchen Walk becomes Kitchen Talk

New Moms fundraiser goes online on April 25

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

The Kitchen Walk is usually one of the biggest fundraisers of the years for local charity New Moms, and it is the kick-off to the spring housewalk season. 

In a typical year, New Moms staffers and volunteers work for months to open up 10 Oak Park and River Forest kitchens to the public for one day of tours. This year is anything but typical and local spring housewalks have been cancelled or postponed. 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizers of the Kitchen Walk knew the walk couldn't go on as planned, and they decided to make lemonade out of lemons.

Bonnie Andorka, New Moms' donor relations and events manager, says that in mid-March it became abundantly clear that the walk could not take place on April 25, but the path forward took a while to discern. 

Organizers considered postponing the walk until a later date, but they realized the future wasn't clear enough to put a date on the calendar. New Moms, an organization that employs a two-generation approach to helping young parents with family support, job training and housing, also relies on the roughly $60,000 that the Kitchen Walk brings in every year, so they couldn't simply abandon the spring fundraiser.

Rather than turn the walk into a virtual tour of the 10 already selected kitchens for 2020, Andorka and team created the first-ever Kitchen Talk. The homes selected for the Kitchen Walk 2020 will be featured in 2021.

For the Kitchen Talk fundraiser, New Moms is asking friends of the Kitchen Walk and New Moms supporters to make a donation to New Moms that will go to provide needed supports for moms and their children. 

Those making a donation will receive access on April 25 to a video created exclusively for New Moms, featuring a handful of local designers offering pro tips about kitchen design. The emailed video will be paired with a discount code for Bright Endeavors candles, the artfully created candles produced in New Moms' paid job training program.

Andorka notes that the past few years, kitchens on the Kitchen Walk have included a pro tip from local designers, printed on cards throughout the kitchens. 

"People have really been loving the design pro tips, so we decided to make that the focus of our fundraiser," Andorka said.

Local designers, who Andorka says walk regulars will recognize from their work on previous walks. The designers will create videos of their tips, and New Moms will bring all of the videos together for one longer video that it will email to donors on April 25.

Andorka says the designers already are coming through. One designer created a video in a kitchen she is currently working on. Her clients moved out during a renovation, so she was able to safely create a video in her kitchen project in progress. 

Oak Park-based designer Denise Hauser, whose designs have been featured on numerous walks, is also at work on a video.

Hauser notes the video concept is a great way to reach out to supporters.

"People really come to the walk to see beautiful spaces, but they also love to get pointers and ideas for what they can do in their own homes," Hauser said. "Sometimes they like to see a more approachable space."

One of Hauser's designs was slated to be on the 2020 walk. That project will be held over for 2021, and she notes that it will appeal to local homeowners. 

"In Oak Park and River Forest, we are always challenged by space," Hauser said. "These older kitchens weren't meant to be what we use them for today. They were just servants' quarters in the back of the house."

Part of her video will address retaining an older home's architectural integrity while modernizing spaces like the kitchen for utility. One way she likes to do that is by bringing some of the interior architectural details from the rest of the house into the kitchen area.

Hauser will also address a few trends in kitchen design that she saw on her visits to markets and design shows prior to virus shutdowns. 

"One big trend is that minimalistic design is transitioning to maximalist design," Hauser said.

Along those same lines, she says color is coming back in a big way. 

"I went to the Architectural Digest show and saw turquoise and coral ranges," Hauser said. "Color was everywhere. We're seeing more patterns replacing the clean lines of the past."

She says one enduring trend is the importance of creating community in your kitchen. While our lives might revolve more and more around technology, she says people are looking to connect with others in their kitchens. 

Most of her projects entail creating a point of connection, like a big island or a place in the kitchen where families can gather.

At the end of the day, that sense of community is what New Moms is hoping to build in its mission to help young mothers create homes for their families and in the community through fundraisers like the Kitchen Talk.

"We are so grateful for our sponsors like Maria Cullerton of Gagliardo Realty, Network it Easy, MKB Architects and Forest Park National Bank & Trust who stuck with us," Andorka said. "So many of our designers have been so generous and kind. We're pivoting and trying to think creatively, and their support is so meaningful."

Donations and access to the Kitchen Talk can be found at newmoms.org/donate-to-kitchen-talk-for-exclusive-designer-pro-tips.

A donation of $45 covers the cost of one Kitchen Talk ticket. A $100 donation provides two move-in kits for families, while a donation of $187.25 provides rent assistance to families struggling to pay rent. A $250 donation helps New Moms maintain a stable budget. 

Andorka says that the community response in the first day after the email blast announcing Kitchen Talk have been heartening, and she hopes people will continue to sign up and support New Moms. 

"We have such a loyal following for our Kitchen Walk," Andorka said. "It's really great to see people jump in and support us in this new format."

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