Local Pizzerias Host Fundraiser for the Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund

Have a slice and give back to those affected by COVID-19; that’s the mission of Pizza with a Purpose, a campaign created by the Ohio Restaurant Association to raise money for the Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund in support of personnel in the foodservice industry who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19.

During the week of January 25th through January 31st, participating pizzerias across the state of Ohio have agreed to donate $1.00 for each pepperoni pizza sold. The number of pizzas sold will be tracked and the participating location that sells the most pizzas will be recognized as “Best Pepperoni Pizza” in Ohio.

A pizza in process at The Original Pizza Place (Olivia Reeder)

Three local pizzerias are joining the cause to uplift those in the foodservice industry: The Original Pizza Place and Over the Moon Pub & Pizza in Marietta, OH and Maxwell’s Pizza in McConnelsville, OH.

“After the incredible hardships a lot of the restaurant industry has faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are proud to support our fellow foodservice employees in the state through Pizza with a Purpose,” said Kasandra Ruscitto-Pritchett of The Original Pizza Place.

Typically, The Original Pizza Place hosts an annual Slice of Hope fundraiser where the business donates 20% of sales to a local charity. Due to the pandemic, they were unable to host that fundraiser this year but Ruscitto-Pritchett shared that Pizza with a Purpose provided an opportunity to reach out and help in a similar way.

The Original Pizza Place in Marietta Ohio
Mike Ruscitto, owner of The Original Pizza Place, puts a fresh pie in the oven (Olivia Reeder)

Cas Maxwell, owner of Maxwell’s Pizza, said it was a no brainer for them to participate in this effort.

“The restaurant industry has been beat up pretty bad so it’s going to take all of us to lift it back up. I’ve seen the biggest impact on the single parents that are employed. Not having the kids in school causes them to spend extra money on child care, which is expensive to begin with,” said Maxwell.

In preparation for the weeklong event, Maxwell’s is creating specials for the week and is planning to raise awareness of the event through a variety of promotional materials. If Maxwell’s won the statewide contest for Best Pepperoni Pizza, the owner is planning to use that title to give back even more.

A fresh pepperoni pizza served up at Maxwell’s in McConnelsville (Sarah Arnold)

“If we win the Best Pepperoni Pizza in Ohio, I will match all that we originally donated and give all the staff a kickback from sales that week. I am really excited to do this and whether we win or not it’s a great thing the money is going to. I encourage all people to support your local businesses. They need you now more than ever!” said Maxwell.

For Over the Moon Pub & Pizza, like many restaurants across the country, they’ve experienced negative economic impacts from restaurant curfews and closures.

“At Over the Moon, we have lost 12 hours of business weekly since the statewide curfew was imposed. This has resulted in a reduction of staff members and hours,” said Lisa Walsh, owner of Over the Moon Pub & Pizza.

Michael Walsh pulls a pizza out of the oven (Michelle Waters)

Despite the setbacks, Walsh is proud that from August 2020 to November 2020, Over the Moon Pub & Pizza raised over $7,700 for local organizations. Their focus on fundraising in support of local needs continues with Pizza for A Purpose.

“We are excited to join Ohio pizza restaurants in this fundraiser for the Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. Restaurant employees have been greatly impacted by reduced hours and job losses due to COVID. The Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund gives grants to restaurant employees to help with grocery, medical, and housing expenses,” said Walsh.

Of course, like Maxwell’s and The Original Pizza Place, Walsh would love for Over the Moon to be awarded the title of Best Pepperoni Pizza in the state. However, the competition is steep.

Over the Moon is located on Front Street in Marietta (Michelle Waters)

“We are competing against restaurants with more than one location, and those in larger cities. The award is given for the most pepperoni pizzas sold during Pizza with a Purpose.  We’ll just be happy to raise money for hard working restaurant employees like ours. We ask for the community’s help by buying pepperoni pizzas,” said Walsh.

Locals looking to support Pizza with a Purpose are encouraged to dine at one or more of the three, local participating locations. Customers can order as many pepperoni pizzas as they’d like during the week, or even use the opportunity to share gratitude with others.

Pepperoni Pizza from Over the Moon (Michelle Waters)

Ruscitto-Pritchett of The Original Pizza Place encourages customers to buy a pizza and have it sent to local first responders, hospital workers, neighbors, and essential workers working hard during the pandemic. 

“There’s no such thing as eating too much pizza for a good cause!” said Ruscitto-Pritchett.

Since its launch in April 2020, the Ohio Restaurant Employee Relief Fund has awarded more than 1,100 grants and raised more than $350,000 for employees in need. Any Ohio employees in the restaurant, foodservice or hospitality industry that have been impacted by COVID-19 are eligible to apply for a grant from the Employee Relief Fund. The funding that employees receive is restricted for the use of housing expenses (e.g. mortgage or rent), living expenses (e.g. transportation and groceries) and medical expenses. Pizza enthusiasts can learn more and also contribute to the cause through donating directly to the fund at OhioRestaurantsRelief.org.