Mason Wartman, tired of his regular desk job on Wall Street, wanted to try something new in life.
Fast forward a few years later, and he’s given out more than 23,000 slices to homeless or struggling patrons from the pizza shop he owns.
Rosa’s Pizza Shop in Philadelphia has gained nationwide popularity—not only due to their affordable $1 pizza slices—but also due to their “pay-it-forward” system, as reported by Upworthy.
Customers can come in and pre-purchase a slice of pizza for those who cannot afford it.
Each pizza slice can be redeemed through post-it notes stuck to one of the shop’s walls, and customers often write nice and encouraging messages on the notes. The project is aimed towards the homeless community in Philadelphia.
The idea started with one customer.
Mason Wartman said that he got the idea from a customer who asked if the shop ever had homeless people come in. He then offered Wartman a dollar to feed the next homeless person that walked into the store.
This prompted Wartman to go out and buy post-it notes to put on the wall behind the register, to keep track of the pre-purchased pizza slices.
“Eventually, a homeless person came in, and he had like 65 cents on him,” said Wartman. “We told him to just keep the change and it was already paid for.”
Soon after this, the idea turned into a popular tradition for the shop.
Wartman says that they now serve up to 100 homeless people a day.
Residents of the city agree that the program plays a big role in helping those less fortunate.
“In a city with a poverty rate that is higher than any big cities comparable to it, to see such a show of compassion and brotherly love, it’s inspiring,” a customer said.
Wartman says that at least one of the homeless people that at one point used the “pay-it-forward” system was able to get back on his feet and contribute towards the system afterwards.
Wartman even made it to the Ellen Show to talk about the impact of his shop—and he suggested to other restaurants to try to give back in a similar way.
It just goes to show how something that seems so small can really go a long way.
Since Wartman’s story went viral, his business has been booming—and the restaurant has been hiring more workers from agencies that work with homeless people seeking employment.
The restaurant now also sells T-shirts and other apparel, designed by homeless artists, and half of the revenue funds more free pizza for customers in need.
You can go here to donate to those in need and help feed the less fortunate in Philadelphia.
Watch the Ellen interview here.