Non-Profit's Dishwasher Dilemma Results in Refund

Washing dishes after a meal is a common chore. Dishwashing machines make the chore a lot easier. But imagine the frustration of washing dozens of dishes by hand, day-after-day, when the dishwasher you purchased for thousands of dollars is sitting unused.

The director of the non-profit Center for Possibilities at Cerebral Palsy of Northwest Indiana in Hobart said the facility, which serves 35 to 40 meals a day to people with developmental disabilities, is now using paper plates because of problems with the center’s new commercial dishwasher.

“It could be so much simpler, so much easier and so much safer for all the clients involved if we had the dishwasher,” said facility director Shelley Boender.

The facility said it had relied on an older commercial dishwasher for about 20 years until it finally stopped working earlier this year. Boender then researched new commercial dishwashers and determined a Blakeslee model from Lowe’s would be a good option for Center for Possibilities.

The facility purchased the dishwasher for $2,564 in February and had it installed.

“We have a hard time getting funding and that’s what we felt like what we could afford,” Boender said.

But instead of the new machine washing dozens of plates, cups and silverware in a matter of minutes, Boender said her staff is washing everything by hand.

“It takes forever and I hurt by the time I go home,” Boender said.

According to Boender, the new dishwasher did not work correctly from the start. She said it was leaking condensation and not getting hot enough.

Boender said she immediately contacted the manufacturer. That’s when she said the manufacturer determined a connector was not hooked up properly.

“We got the electrician in the next day and he hooked it up and from that point it worked I would say for maybe two weeks, we didn’t have any issues,” Boender said.

But staff members said the fix did not last long. They said they noticed the sanitizer solution hooked up to the machine was being contaminated. Boender reported her concerns to the manufacturer and learned a sanitizer was not supposed to have been used in the first place.

And even though Boender said she was made to sign a non-warranty payment authorization, she said the manufacturer was slow to respond to her calls and emails.

“Getting my money back would probably be the best way to resolve it,” Boender said.

After NBC 5 Responds contacted Blakeslee for comment, the company told us it had been determined that the facility’s use of a chemical sanitizer solution (used on low-temperature dishwashers) on a high-temperature dishwasher had caused the machine’s final rinse system to suffer damages.

“Typically, this is not a warranty related issue,” wrote a Blakeslee service manager.

However, the Blakeslee service manager told NBC 5 Responds that the company had decided to refund Lowes for the dishwasher “in the best interest of all parties.”

Lowes subsequently issued a $2,564.99 refund check to the Center for Possibilities.

“In the interest of customer service, we resolved this situation by arranging for the dishwasher to be picked up and a refund issued,” wrote a Lowes spokesperson. 

The facility said it will use the refund to put toward a new commercial dishwasher.

“This is good news for us!” Boender wrote in a follow up email to NBC 5 Responds.

Meantime, Center for Possibilities said its financial situation took a big hit in recent months after it discovered large amounts of cash withdrawals through ATM machines located throughout Lake County, Indiana.

Theft charges were filed against John Kmetz, 79, who the center said served as a past board president.

Attorney Scott King represents Kmetz and said his retired client denies any wrongdoing.

Center For Possibilities said it recently created a Go Fund Me page to help raise funds.

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