By: Mason Wartman, Upworthy.com
I’ve been three years off the streets. I was seven years homeless myself as a veteran and I finally got myself out of the rut, got myself an income and now I want to pay it forward.
Before I opened up Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, I just worked at a desk job in New York. I showed up every morning, did some computer work and then went home, pretty regular stuff. I wanted to do something new. I saw the success of the dollar pizza stores throughout New York so I thought I’d open this place up and try my hand at it.
The first day the “pay it forward” program kind of started was when a gentleman walked in and he asked if a homeless person ever came in short and he offered to pre-purchase a slice of pizza for the next homeless person. So he gave me a dollar, I ran out, got Post-it notes, put one up on a wall behind the register, told more people about it. Eventually a couple of days later a homeless person came in, he had like 65 cents on him and we told him to just keep the change, it was already paid for. He redeemed one of the pre-purchased slices.
Now we’ve given away almost 10,000 slices of pizza. I try to donate at least $5 a week and that’s so funny because today I left my wallet and everything home and I had 78 cents in my pocket and I just came in. I was like, “I’m a little short” and they were like, “okay, don’t worry about it” and that’s a really great feeling so I can imagine how the homeless people feel. And it’s just a great thing. And the pizza is good. I’m from New York so you know I know what pizza is.
Oh, just yesterday there was a guy that came in. He’d been homeless for like eight months and I hadn’t seem him for like three months. And I’m like, “Yo, where you been at?” He’s like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m working now. I figured I’d buy a slice for someone else.” And I was like, that was awesome. Just a couple days prior I had been like, “Man, I hope that guy’s okay” and it turns out he’s killing it.
I think it’s pretty cool how powerful something this small and simple can be. And in a city with a poverty rate that is higher than all other big cities comparable to it, to see such a show of compassion and brotherly love, it’s inspiring.
If you’d like to pre-order a slice (or 200) for folks who would appreciate a warm meal, visit Rosa’s Fresh Pizza donation page.