At Baptist church, kitchen remodeled in honor of lost parishioner, family matriarch

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BURRILLVILLE – After months of scraping, sanding, grinding, gluing, nailing, painting – and even discovering an artifact from decades past – a Burrillville family finished remodeling the kitchen at Fellowship Hall of Pascoag Community Baptist Church, allowing the church to once again offer dinners and coffee hours.

The Toti family renovated the kitchen at the church to honor their beloved mother Barbara Toti, who died last year. In lieu of flowers, relatives and friends contributed to the renovation, helping to provide supplies and/ or volunteering time. Barbara’s adult children Carl Toti, Chris Toti, and Paula Toti organized and led the project, enlisting help from relatives and others.

The result: a modernized fully functional kitchen that will serve the church well for upcoming festivities.

“We were brought up in the church,” said Paula.

Carl, Chris, and Paula, with their mother, and their grandmother Lillian Blanchard, say they spent countless pleasant hours in the kitchen. The Toti kids recall fond memories of Christmas dinner parties with caroling and decorating the Christmas tree, and Valentine and harvest suppers.

“We planned and put together a lot of dinners over the years for church and school functions,” said Chris, describing the project as a fitting way to honor his late mother. The kitchen project is a way to also remember the Totis’ beloved grandmother.

“My grandmother was the driving force behind the dinners, and then her daughter, and then us, her kids,” said Paula. The church, she said, “was their second home in a lot of ways.”

The rehab took three months and those who helped the siblings included Cathy Creadle, Debra Peterman, and Art and Eileen Roy, as well as Colleen Casey.

One task of the renovation project was changing the flooring.

“I put together a group to pick out and install the floor,: says Chris, noting the time and effort put in by Brad Provencal and Kevin McDaniel.

The project, “is a wonderful tribute to their mom and grandma. I know how much they enjoyed participating in and preparing the food,” said Rev. Dr. Bryan Speroni, pastor of the church.

The kitchen improvement definitely was in need because it gets a lot of use between the church and school, Speroni said.

The pastor said the kitchen upgrade means the parish can get back to having church suppers and coffee after services.

“We’re all in agreement” said Paula about reviving church functions.

The Totis with Rev. Bryan Speroni.

While removing the old to bring the new into the kitchen, Carl found a Flavor Aid soda pop bottle from the 1940s or 50s. But the church’s history goes back much further.

The church was founded in 1786 by Pastor John Colby. It was incorporated as a church in 1820.

The building dates to 1850. The church joined with the local Methodist church – after its building was blown away by the 1938 hurricane – to become Pascoag Community Baptist Church, explained Speroni, adding that the school was added in the 1960s.

Roger Williams was the founder of the first Baptist church in America, and Barbara’s family has deep roots in Rhode Island. Carl, Chris, and Paula are 13th generation descendant of Williams, and Chris’s children are the fourteenth, Paula said.

At Pascoag Community Baptist Church, the kitchen project is just about done, said Carl.

“Any renovation project you get started , and there’s always more,” he said.

The Toti kids and Speroni are planning a grand kitchen re-opening later this spring.

Meanwhile, a colorful spring flower garden, with a memorial sign for siblings’ grandmother, adorns the front of the church. The flowers are perennial, and, like the new kitchen, are a family legacy that will endure for many years to come.

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