Longtime catering business that worked with Meals on Wheels 'total loss' after fire, officials say

ByDiane Pathieu and Christian Piekos WLS logo
Friday, January 27, 2023
Longtime catering business that worked with Meals on Wheels 'total loss' after fire, officials say
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A burnt-out shell is all the remains of Georgis Catering, which has been in business in Chicago since 1946.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An intense fire destroyed a longtime catering business not far from Midway Airport Friday morning.

A burnt-out shell is all the remains of Georgis Catering, which has been in business in Chicago since 1946.

The catering company worked closely with Meals on Wheels for a decade, providing thousands of meals each week for vulnerable senior citizens.

The nonprofit said this is a devastating loss.

The Chicago Fire Department responded to the fire around 3:30 a.m. in the 6300-block of South Central Avenue.

Deadly high-rise fire caused by careless use of smoking materials, Chicago Fire Department says

Flames engulfed the building, which the fire department now says is a total loss.

Surveillance video from inside Mom and Dad's Deli, a small sandwich shop next to Georgis Catering, shows smoke building inside their restaurant this morning.

"There was a real fire going on. There was like a boom," described Tony and Helen Chon, the owners of Mom & Dad's Deli.

Crews watched hotspots all morning because the fire kept rekindling. Investigators arrived Friday morning as well to begin looking into a cause.

Employees of the business said Georgis Catering has been serving the city for 77 years. The business served meals for private planes at Midway and also worked with Meals on Wheels.

"It was a big staple, especially for our seniors," employee Vanessa Hernandez said. "We did a bunch of Meals on Wheels for them. I think that is the most devastating part.

"It's an astronomical impact on what we do every day," added Lauren Doherty, CEO for Meals on Wheels of Northern Illinois. "We don't exist without help from the community on an every day basis. We serve 3,000 square miles and have 800 volunteers, so we're always looking to work with the community."

Jose Martinez has been working at Georgis for 33 years and can't believe the loss.

"Bad and sad, you know...it's bad and sad. We have a lot of people without food today," Martinez said.

Employees said about 2,000 meals for Meals on Wheels would not be distributed Friday.

Meals on Wheels Foundation of Northern Illinois said they do have emergency boxes prepared for those residents Friday. They are working to find another food provider for their seniors on Monday.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries, but is expected to be OK.

Worried about the residents in the adjacent building, families were evacuated and placed in a warming bus as a precaution. Their building has significant water damage but the fire did not spread.

The owners of Mom & Dad Deli also said they have some water damage but are hoping to open in the coming days.

"We are okay for business, but I'm making sure for my personal attention everything must be clean," the owners said.

Meals On Wheels released a statement saying, "We are devastated at the loss that our catering partner, George "Buz" Georgis at Georgis Catering has endured. For over a decade, Georgis Catering has provided nearly 10,000 meals per week to Cook County's most vulnerable seniors. Buz is a kind soul who has always shown up for our clients, and

Georgis Catering truly helped make a difference in our communities. Our programs serve almost 7,000 older adults and individuals with disabilities, and with Buz's partnership we were on track to serve 700,000 meals in Cook County and nearly 1,000,000 meals program wide this year.

At our eight sites in Cook County in Brookfield, Berwyn, Hometown, South Chicago Heights, Phoenix, Lemont Township, and at one of our stand-alone cafés in Dolton, our clients will not receive hot meals today. While they will be provided with emergency shelf stable meals, we are searching for a new caterer and trying to connect with local restaurants as quickly as we can. Our programs in Will, Kendall, and Grundy counties will continue as usual.

We have been in touch with Buz and we hope that the community can support him as he has supported them in the past. Community members who want to support the seniors in Cook County and make sure we can quickly return to providing hot meals can contribute their time or make a donation to the Meals on Wheels Foundation of Northern Illinois. For interest in volunteering or making a gift, reach out to Zoraima Yoli at 224-471-9936 or at zcruz@mowfni.org."

Georgis Catering was not able to comment on the fire.

For more information on Meals on Wheels, visit mowfni.org.