Lifestyle & Human Interest

Couple Opens Pizza Shop with Purpose To Help and Employ the Homeless in Their City


If you were at your lowest, stuck in a dead-end situation with no hope of getting out your own, what would it take to turn things around for you? Would it require a dedicated team of people willing to help you out?

Or do you think you could manage a personal reformation if given a single chance? That’s a challenge which many homeless people face.

Circumstances are stacked against them, and it is often a challenge to get even one good opportunity. Still, some manage to turn their lives around in dramatic ways.

For instance, the New York State Department of Labor has teamed up with the nonprofit Women in Need, which runs homeless shelters, to help women learn how to get jobs.

The New York Daily News reported that, in addition to providing weekly training sessions, the Department of Labor helped organize a job fair specifically for these women. Big-name employers such as Nike and Amazon attended.

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“We know our moms are ready to work,” Women in Need CEO Christine Quinn said. “But many of these women have come from a lifetime of poverty and may not have the same knowledge about searching for a job.”

A Chicago husband and wife who have moved to Greenwood, Indiana, understand that full well.

According to RLV6, when the couple moved from Illinois, they had plans to retire. But after joining a local church, the started getting involved with the church’s ministry program, called “Tear Down the Walls,” to help the needy community of Indianapolis.

They began making pizzas for the homeless out of their church’s kitchen, and quickly found out how popular they were. While they never intended to start their own business, the Wilhelmis soon came across a former Papa John’s location with some leftover pizza making equipment. The couple ultimately took over the empty space, and a new kind of pizza restaurant was born.

According to WLS-TV, Tom Wilhelmi once found himself struggling to stay on the straight and narrow.

“For a couple of weeks, when I was transitioning from selling drugs and running a gambling operation to trying to go legit, I was homeless myself,” he said. So he and his wife Angie decided to do something to make it easier for homeless people to begin living stable lives.

Their restaurant, Agapé Pizza, only hires people who are in transitional housing, i.e., moving out of homelessness. “Instead of always being turned down for jobs, here. You’ve got the job. Don’t worry about it,” Angie Wilhelmi said.

“It just gives them more self-confidence that they’re able to go out and look for other things.”

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According to WTTV, the Wilhelmi’s don’t even take paychecks and all of their tips go to Tear Down the Walls.

“There are 15,000 homeless people around Indianapolis, and there are not enough people to love and help them back,” Tom said. One of the couple’s employees, Milford Weeks, agrees.

“Being on the street, it really is nasty,” she said. “Get them back up to where they feel human again.”

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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