Philadelphia is the poorest large city in the United States.

And it’s the city with the worst deep poverty rate in the country, with roughly 185,000 people (including 60,000 kids) living on incomes below half of the federal poverty line. With that, homelessness is on the rise, and the city doesn’t have enough resources to be there for everyone.

Heavy, right?

Well, I don’t mean to bum you out. Actually, I want to shine a big, bright light on some people who are giving Philadelphia’s homeless a daily taste of hope and kindness.

At one Philly pizza parlor, customers can “pay it forward” by pre-purchasing $1 slices of pizza for people in need.

Owner Mason Wartman, who left his Wall Street desk job to open Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, says pay-it-forward pizza started with one customer, one dollar, and one Post-it note.

Philadelphia Pizza Shop Lets Customers Pre-Pay for a Slice and Pay it ForwardMason Wartman stands at the helm of Rosa’s Fresh Pizza.

The customer was inspired by an Italian coffee house practice called caffè sospeso (suspended coffee), by which customers can pre-purchase cups of coffee for less fortunate customers. Wartman wrote the purchase on a Post-it and slapped it on the wall behind the register to be redeemed by the next homeless patron to enter the store.

As word spread, more and more customers participated.

And Rosa’s wall blossomed with colorful notes signifying acts of kindness — and a guaranteed slice for everyone who walked in, regardless of their ability to pay.

Philadelphia Pizza Shop Lets Customers Pre-Pay for a Slice and Pay it ForwardPizza “coupons”

Since that first pay-it-forward slice, Rosa’s has provided nearly 10,000 pizza slices to needy Philadelphians.

Pre-purchased slices now represent a whopping 10% of Rosa’s business. And it’s having a remarkable impact on the community, showing not only that acts of kindness can be contagious, but also how a small gesture of support can have a ripple effect of positivity.

Philadelphia Pizza Shop Lets Customers Pre-Pay for a Slice and Pay it Forward

In the video, Wartman tells the story of a homeless regular who disappeared for a while only to return having found a new job and wanting to pay it forward as others had done for him. And in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Wartman notes that some have even said the program has helped to keep them out of trouble with the law: [Wartman] said people who receive the slices have told him the generosity helps them avoid committing petty crime to get money for food.

I knew it saved people money, I hadn’t considered that it stopped people from committing crime.

If one small business acting as a hub of kindness can have this kind of effect, imagine the potential impact of an entire community of businesses and their customers doing the same thing.

Watch the story…

You can visit the Rosa’s Fresh Pizza store if you’re in the Philly area, or visit their website to order online. Also, be sure and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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