A violence prevention group hopes to bring more peace to a South Side neighborhood with every piece of pizza sold at a new restaurant opening at the end of the month.
Peace of Pizza, located at 1801 W. 95th St., will serve as a training ground for teens to develop skills working in a restaurant. They will also learn to be punctual and how to maneuver in a professional environment.
“Eat a slice and save a life,” said Tamar Manasseh, founder of M.A.S.K. and the new restaurant, which is the business arm of the non-profit Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings. “Just eating pizza with us can help reduce gun violence because we are getting the youth out of the streets and giving them valuable skills.”
The store-front restaurant will also serve wings, burgers, pasta, sandwiches and salads.
A quarter of all revenue will also go back into M.A.S.K. to fund programs aimed at combating food insecurity, housing issues and violence in Englewood. The nonprofit was founded in 2015 by mothers wanting to save their children from gun violence.
M.A.S.K.’s approach to ending gun violence has garnered national attention in recent years as it occupies the corner of 75th Street and Stewart Avenue. The group engages the youth through counseling, cooking healthy meals and finding homes for those who don’t have them.
“We are really hoping this can be a future model for investing directly into our neighborhood since we often struggle to gain partnership with city government,” Manasseh said. “This is an example of where the business community and the nonprofit community can work together.”
The goal for Peace of Pizza is not only investing dollars into the community but also investing in people, Manasseh said.
Peace of Pizza will employ three full-time employees and three teens in internship-like roles. The teens will work in the restaurant for three to six months developing the tools needed to make them marketable in the job market to help them work in other restaurants, Manasseh said.
“I got all of these kids that say they want to leave the streets, but they can’t get a job because they have a [criminal] record,” Manasseh said. “It breaks my heart when young people ask me to help find them a job and I can’t ... but now I will be able to.”
Peace of Pizza’s grand opening will be held at 5:30 p.m. July 31.
Manny Ramos is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.