By Sue Moretti Bodson
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and recognize all that connects family and friends. The same can apply to the larger community; more than ever, we need to realize that we have more that unites us than not. On Tuesday, November 23, the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich came together to celebrate their 19th Annual Thanksgiving Feast, returning this year in person after a hybrid pick-up event last year.
The Club “family” of 350 boys and girls dined on a traditional Thanksgiving fare donated generously by Thanksgiving Feast supporters: Stew Leonard’s (20 turkeys), Acme Foundation (250 apple and pumpkin pies), Bimbo Bakeries (dinner rolls), and financial support from Creamer Landscaping & Lawn Care, Morgan Stanley, the Hilton Family, and Bryan Quackenbush.
Most notably, Courtnay’s Kitchen donated and prepared 24 ten-pound roasted turkey breasts, traditional stuffing, buttered green beans, mashed potatoes, and in-house made cranberry compote.
“The Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich is happy to partner with Courtnay’s Kitchen, who supplied and prepared the food for our 19th Annual Thanksgiving Feast for our Club kids,” said Cristina Vittoria, Chief Executive Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich.
“We are thrilled to return to an in-person celebration at the Club and are enormously grateful for the generosity and dedication of Courtnay and her team. This event highlights the support we receive from the Greenwich community and their kindness and generosity,” Vittoria added.
When first approached to open her Kitchen to prepare the annual feast for the Club kids, Courtnay Arpano did not hesitate. “This is just the way we roll,” said Arpano, noting that in addition to herself, her staff was also volunteering their time.
“I applaud Courtnay Arpano and Courtnay’s Kitchen for supporting the BGCG’s time-honored Thanksgiving feast for the Club Kids,” said First Selectman Fred Camillo.
Courtnay’s Kitchen has been located at 136 Hamilton Ave for a little over three years, during the bulk of Covid. In March 2020, Courtnay’s Kitchen made a complete pivot from in-store to home delivery. In those early days of Covid, people were reluctant to go to the grocery store. Because of the influx of family members, including college students returning home to Greenwich, and the increase in people working from home needing at-home food options during the workday, Arpano saw a surge in demand for her online weekly delivery service, which offered breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In fact, Courtnay’s Kitchen experienced a sixfold increase in sales compared to 2019. At the beginning of 2021, comfort levels began to rise as the vaccine became available. She then re-launched her popular cleanses, which always sell out.
Healthy cooking and providing healthy options are a passion for Arpano, but so is giving back.
“It is a calling,” she said. “I don’t think twice about it – it’s morally the right thing to do.”
Over the years, Arpano has donated countless cooking parties and donations to silent auctions supporting many local charities, including the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich, The Undies Project, Neighbor to Neighbor, the Backpack Project Bridgeport, and Make a Wish, among several others. Proceeds from a partnership with the Breast Cancer Alliance “Cleanse for a Cure” resulted in a $3,500 donation.
In April 2020, she raised over $12,000 for Neighbor to Neighbor with her Family Fried Chicken Fundraiser. Then last Thanksgiving, she provided over 100 Thanksgiving meals for our local senior citizens through the Commission on Aging and the Greenwich Senior Center.
“I received thank you notes from all over the country thanking me for taking care of their parents who were shut-in because of Covid,” Arpano said.
Arpano’s charitable activities extend beyond her Kitchen. Twelve years ago, Arpano and her friends Vicki Carver and Toby Peters started the Spirit of Friendship. The trio gathers their friends every year for a communal celebratory meal during the holidays. In lieu of a gift exchange, the Spirit of Friendship became a collective giving circle to contribute funds to local charities. Arpano said it was something her mother did in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Over the past 11 years, the three have raised over $140,000 in donations to local charities. Arpano provides the food to the 40-50 attendees each, which generally raises $12-$15,000 a gathering. The 12th Spirit of Friendship will take place in early December at a local home.
In addition to her charitable contributions, Arpano also lifts people up. Arpano was introduced to an aspiring fellow chef, Robert Cox, who started his culinary career at Boulud Sud in New York City. Cox then went to Paris cooking at Le Rigmarole and Septime, a Michelin-rated restaurant but returned to the States because of Covid. Looking to make ends meet during a pandemic, Cox became the beneficiary of Arpano’s grace and hospitality. In September and October of 2020, Cox used Courtnay’s Kitchen as a base to cook his one-star Michelin dinners for curbside pick-up every Thursday evening.
“Robbie Cox is a brilliant chef, and I was so happy to give him a place to cook and provide the resources he needed,” smiled Arpano, acknowledging that she helped her peer get through the Covid rough patch. Currently, Cox is an acclaimed chef at Fradei in Brooklyn, NY. Of her acts of kindness, Arpano said, “I do it because I can.”
“It is important to recognize Greenwich’s locally-owned small businesses that have stepped forward to support those in need during these challenging times,” Camillo said. “Courtnay’s Kitchen is an excellent example of a small business owner who has given back to her Greenwich community to help her Greenwich neighbors, quietly and without asking for recognition. Courtnay and her business illustrate how compassionate our Greenwich community is.”