GREENWOOD, Ind. – An Indiana restaurant specializing in Chicago-style pizza is serving homeless people in their community.
Tom and Angie Wilhelmi opened Agapé Pizza in the southern Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood in December.
The Wilhelmis’ love for pizza, and for helping the less fortunate, started a few years ago when they moved to Indiana from Chicago. The couple said they met Brian and Tiffany Walls of Tear Down the Walls Ministries and an immediate partnership was formed.
“Every other weekend we were making 12 inch individual pizzas for each homeless person and another weekend we would do baked mostaccioli, we would do lasagna,” Angie Wilhelmi explained.
They found a way to combine their two passions by opening the pizza shop.
“For us to be able to lead with our right foot and our right hand and say, ‘Come on, we’re going to give you a lift up,’” Tom Wilhelmi said.
The Wilhelmis only employ formerly homeless people, living in transitional housing, like Milford Weeks. He went from living in a tent, to transitional housing, then to making pizzas.
“Being on the street, it really is nasty,” Weeks said.
This job turned his life around. He said he couldn’t thank the Wilhelmis enough for what they’re doing for him and other people who need some help.
“Get them back up to where they feel human again, where they actually have an appreciation for life again,” added Weeks. “They’re able to pay bills, they’re able to buy new clothes, just be human and be productive again.”
That’s why the Wilhelmis do it. They don’t take a paycheck. Instead, 100 percent of the tips go directly to the local ministry, Tear Down the Walls. The nonprofit also gets 5 percent of their net sales.
“Instead of always being turned down for jobs, here you got the job, don’t worry about it,” Angie said. “It just gives them more self-confidence that they’re able to go out and look for other things.”
Tom knows the struggles of not having a place to call home firsthand.
“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.
The Wilhelmis want Agapé Pizza to be a new beginning for their employees.
“There are 15,000 homeless people around Indianapolis, and there are not enough people to love and help them back up,” said Tom Wilhelmi.