TPC Holds Ribbon Cutting, Welcomes Donors to its Newly-Renovated Kitchen and its Enriched CFL Program As Part of Our Commitment to Community, Collaboration and Inclusivity for Students with Special Needs | Nutley, NJ (October 23, 2023)
Columbia Bank and the DeMattheis Family joined administrators and teachers at The Phoenix Center in Nutley, NJ, at the unveiling of the schools’ newly-renovated teaching kitchen on October 13, 2023.
According to Julie Mower, Executive Director of The Phoenix Center. “Our motto, ‘preparing students for life beyond the classroom,’ has never felt more tangible than today. After the splendid unveiling of the newly renovated teaching kitchen, we can proudly say that our Consumer Family Life Skills (CFL) program is set to provide even richer experiences to our students.”
The renovations of the teaching kitchen were funded by the Columbia Bank Foundation and the DeMattheis Family, transforming the 312 square-foot space into a modern facility that fosters self-reliance, promotes life skills, and prepares students at The Phoenix Center for both home life and potential employment in the culinary world. As part of its Vocational Restaurant Program (VRP), students run “Restaurant Day” once each quarter when they prepare scrumptious salads and pasta lunches for the entire school. This endeavor, entirely student-run with the unwavering support of school staff, is a testament to the program’s success.
At the heart of this transformation was a compelling speech during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This teaching kitchen truly is the heart of our school community,” said Ashley Agresti, head of the CFL Program. “It is evident in the thoughtful design choices – an expansive island and a farm table to accommodate varying student heights, ample cabinets for easy access to tools and ingredients, and a soon-to-be-installed Smart Television for interactive lessons.
“It’s where students learn not just about food but also about perseverance, relationship-building, service, and confidence. This kitchen reinforces concepts of healthy choices, understanding dietary restrictions, and mastering the nuances of texture and taste. Beautiful moments are crafted within the confines of this kitchen, which students can then apply beyond its walls.”Ashley Agresti (TPC)
Pictured in the first photo are representatives from both organizations (from left to right): Mayra Rinaldi (Columbia Bank), Ashley Agresti (TPC), Julie Mower (TPC), Julie Holland (Columbia Bank), Frank Aghasi (Columbia Bank), and Dennis Gibney (Columbia Bank). The second image features Jon DeMattheis (The DeMattheis Family), Carolyn Sharaway (TPC), Ashley Agresti (TPC), Julie Mower (TPC), and Steve DeMattheis (The DeMattheis Family), underscoring the combined efforts of families and institutions in serving the community.