Can pizza really change lives? (Those of you who can’t live without pizza probably answered with a resounding yes.) This week, a few colleagues and I had the opportunity to visit a very special place where every slice of pizza served gives back to the community, sparking a continuous circle of change for those on both sides of the counter.
Last April, Sedgwick partnered with an exceptional organization called the Alpha Project, which provides work, recovery and support services to those motivated to achieve self-sufficiency. The organization was working to open a pizzeria that would be housed in, and eventually supported and staffed by the residents of San Diego’s Alpha Square, home to more than 200 formerly homeless individuals.
One year later, Alpha Pizzeria opened its doors to the San Diego community; this week, we helped the restaurant celebrate its grand opening and raise awareness in the local neighborhood by hosting an evening of free pizza and soft drinks, courtesy of Sedgwick. Our San Diego-area colleagues and other friends joined in the fun. We sampled quite a few menu items and can attest that the food is delicious! This is, in large part, thanks to local Chef Alex Caraballo, who stepped in to develop recipes and a menu that deliver outstanding flavor and quality to the patrons. Watch the video below to hear from Chef Caraballo about how the partnership developed.
What truly sets Alpha Pizzeria apart from the competition is its underlying mission to empower people to regain their footing and to live independently and with dignity. The residents of Alpha Square can now learn basic culinary and restaurant skills in the on-site pizzeria and industrial kitchen. After completing six weeks of training, they can either join the staff at Alpha Pizzeria or pursue gainful employment at other San Diego establishments.
At the event, I met Margaret, an Alpha Square resident who is starting the restaurant training program this month. As she shares in the video below, she never imagined she’d be homeless and in need of a place like Alpha Square. Her desire to find a purpose for getting up each day and doing meaningful work is inspiring. People like Margaret affirm the importance of our financial support and commitment to being present at Alpha Pizzeria. The event was a terrific representation of our caring counts philosophy.
We were honored to have a plaque installed in the restaurant that recognizes Sedgwick’s support. Jay Ayala, managing director of our western region casualty team, was on hand to accept the acknowledgement from Bob McElroy, Alpha Project’s CEO and president. Jay was quick to point out that financial support alone doesn’t solve problems; rather, it takes continual investment in helping people to effect change and make goodness happen in a community.
Levi was the first person to arrive at the event and join us for pizza, and hearing his story was among the most moving aspects of my experience there. He came to apply for a position. Levi told me that the Casa Raphael program, also funded and run by the Alpha Project, helped him put his life back together after a string of addictions. He shared that his life is not perfect, but whose is? Levi is in an infinitely better place than before the Alpha Project came into his life; like many others, he talked about how the organization had saved his life and that he will forever be grateful for their care and support.
Everyone who attended was inspired and encouraged by the stories of people like Margaret and Levi. The Sedgwick delegation felt the warmth and love of all those present for the celebration.
I will leave you with a challenge. Wherever you live, there are worthwhile organizations in need of your time and talents. Sedgwick colleagues demonstrate on a daily basis the power of giving back to our communities because caring counts. Give back just one hour per week or month, and you will surely reap the rewards. We must give while we can because, like Margaret and Levi, we may suddenly find ourselves on the receiving end. Pay it forward today; you will be glad you did.
Jonathan Mast, social media director, Sedgwick