Current Projects

The Lily Pad Cafe

Cooking Up Better Lives has selected a winner for the 2021 Better Lives Makeover: The Lily Pad Café in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

The Lily Pad is a 501c3 non-profit focusing on the employment & training of young adults with special needs. The cafe will employ and train young adults with special needs in every aspect of food and hospitality service. This training will encompass social and life skills, providing significant experience that might not be gained in a typical setting.

The Lily Pad Café will equip young adults with the training and experience necessary to obtain employment by local businesses so that they can not only achieve their full potential, but also display to the community their abundant talents and abilities.

This nominee was brought forth by Nissco Restaurant Dealer Group’s dealer member, Cody Allen of FS-1 Concepts. FS-1 Concepts has pledged services of layout/design, receiving, warehousing, delivery, and installation to the project. “This amazing blessing from Cooking Up Better Lives is going to help make The Lily Pad Café a reality sooner than we’d hoped, which will be a tremendous blessing for our community,” stated Allen.

Learn more about this project:

We want to thank our partners for their generosity:

Completed Projects

The Center

In 2018, Cooking Up Better Lives worked with The Center, an addiction recovery center in Palos Park, Illinois. Programs and activities include an on site substance-abuse recovery program, as well as prayer services, preschool through second-grade classes, farm tours and agricultural education, summer camp, and a full-ranging art program. The kitchen was gutted and expanded so that it can now provide 33,000 meals a year, including banquet capabilities. In all, the project took about 7 months and cost about $250,000.

This nominee was brought forth by Excell Foodservice Equipment Dealer Network members, Mark and Kathy Raber of Ramar Restaurant Equipment & Supplies. Ramar Supply donated consultation services as well as kitchen design, general contracting, warehousing, delivery and installation to the project. Mark’s involvement was both professional and personal.

Learn more about this project:
FE&S Magazine: A Pro You Should Know: Mark Raber of Ramar Restaurant Equipment & Supplies

In the News:
Chicago Tribune
FER Magazine

We want to thank our partners for their generosity:

  • Advance Tabco
  • Blodgett
  • Captive-Aire
  • Carolina Cooks
  • Carter-Hoffman
  • Chase Doors
  • CMA Dishmachines
  • Comstock-Castle
  • Continental Refrigerator
  • Hoshizaki America
  • Gator Chef
  • John Boos and Co.
  • Krowne
  • Maven Foodservice Group
  • Minot Restaurant Supply
  • Nor-Lake
  • Pitco
  • R.M. Flagg
  • Ramar Supply
  • Southbend
  • The Legacy Companies
  • U.S. Cooler

Creative Dreams

In 2017, Cooking Up Better Lives worked with Creative Dreams Outreach Center, an after-school arts and tutoring program for financially disadvantaged middle and high school students. They offer free art, dance, music lessons, and academic tutoring. Their new kitchen helps provide, on average, 200 meals per week.

Kingsley House

Cooking Up Better Lives in partnership with James Beard award winner – Chef Donald Link, the Link Restaurant Group and Excell Dealer, Caire Hotel & Restaurant Supply, this project will fund a commercial kitchen that will serve more than 200 vulnerable infants, children, disabled adults and seniors each day – more than 7,000 people per year. The new kitchen is part of Kingsley House’s $12,560,000 capital campaign to Build a Promising Future for Children and Families by building a new 24,000 square foot campus on 4.2 acres of recently acquired property.

House in the Woods

Cooking Up Better Lives collaborated with the below members of Excell to procure over $20,000 in
equipment and supplies for a Better Lives Kitchen Makeover for House in the Woods in Lee, Maine.
A regional non-prot 501(c)(3) charity, House in the Woods is an outdoor retreat program that honors
veterans and their families’ sacrices and assists them in their journey towards healing the mental and
physical pain of loss.

This nominee was brought forth by one of Excell’s Dealers, R.M. Flagg Foodservice Equipment, who is very
passionate about this cause and will be donating the kitchen design services as well as storing the
equipment and making sure it is delivered and installed.

To learn more, visit:


  • Advance Tabco
  • Aero Manufacturing
  • Captive Aire
  • CMA
  • GMCW
  • In-sink-erator
  • The Legacy Companies
  • Nemco
  • Nexel
  • Nor-Lake
  • Univex
  • Sharp
To read more about this project, visit:

Delancey Street Foundation

Country's leading self-help organization for substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless and others who have hit rock bottom.

The Delancey Street Foundation is considered to be the “world’s most successful organization” (Parade Magazine) for helping people who have hit rock bottom in their lives.

As a State Certified Vocational School, they provide three marketable skills to every resident so they can be responsible citizens. One of their unique features is that they accept no government funds and charge no fees to their clients.  Delancey Street reached out to Cooking Up Better Lives in hopes of receiving a much needed donation to be used in their culinary arts vocational school/restaurant.

In just two short weeks, Cooking Up Better Lives was able to procure the Delancey Street’s entire wish list.

The following Dealers and Vendors were more than willing to show their generosity:

Although this wish-list is short, these items are valued at almost $15,000!! The Delancey Street Foundation was very grateful to have such a wish fulfilled.

Care Link

Adult Day Program

Care Link, an adult day program in Boulder, Colorado lost almost everything in the floods of 2013.

Care Link reached out to Cooking Up Better Lives, only asking for a new Convection Oven. Because an act as simple as making cookies once again would lift spirits, bring back good memories, as well as add a homelike atmosphere to welcome back many of their members.

Cooking Up Better Lives was more than happy to put them in touch with Tundra Restaurant Supply, also in Boulder, who generously donated a new, Waring Convection Oven.

It truly warms our hearts to help others who are so deserving! It really makes our every day’s efforts worth it. And a HUGE thank you to Tundra!

Enjoy the cookies, pies and other delectable creations Care Link!

Senior Support Services

Day Center for Hungry and Homeless Seniors


Senior Support Services received a BUNN coffee grinder ($500 value) in collaboration with a donation of coffee beans to assist in serving fresh, hot coffee to over 2,000 homeless senior citizens who call Denver, Colorado home.

The day center is a safe place to spend time, socialize with others, and participate in activities. Kindness can come in many forms, including in a fresh, warm cup of coffee.

Cooking Up Better Lives was more than happy to assist in this much needed matchmaking!

Old Savannah City Mission

Changing lives by feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, rehabilitating the addict and restoring the offender.

In 2012, the OSCM served 125,360 meals and sheltered 29,019 beds.

This nominee was brought forth by one of Excell’s Dealers, Arnaldo Torres from Savannah Restaurant Equipment who is very passionate about helping the less fortunate and taking on this project in collaboration with Cooking Up Better Lives.

The following Dealers and Vendors were more than willing to show their generosity:

  • Front Range Equipment Source: Dishwasher
  • Southbend: Commercial Oven Range
  • Pitco: Gas Fryer
  • NorLake: Reach-In Freezer and Reach-In Refrigerator
  • SupremeMetal: Hot Food Table

These very grateful donations are valued at almost $25,000 and will bring the kitchen up to code requirements, and help the OSCM serve the increased number of meals that have become so challenging over the past couple of years in a small and outdated kitchen.

Urban Peak The Spot

Assisting young people to overcome poverty and homelessness by offering services and support to become self-reliant adults.

More than a dozen non-profits submitted requests to be in the 2011 selection for the Better Lives Makeover in Denver. Urban Peak, the largest homeless youth shelter and drop-in center in the Rocky Mountain region, was selected by the advisory board of Cooking Up Better Lives. Completed in November 2011, Urban Peak completed its new drop-in center and commercial grade kitchen, providing more than 6,000 hot meals to be served annually.