Joe’s Pasta, Pizza & Subs at 1102 S. Treadaway has served Abilene quality cuisine for 17 years and is now serving the homeless community with its Pay It Forward program.
The restaurant’s Pay it Forward program, which began in July of 2015, allows customers to donate at least $2.50 so that someone who normally could not afford to buy a piece of pizza could use the donation to buy a slice and a drink.
The donations are displayed in the form of sticky notes on a large poster board with the amount of the donation and a message from the donor scribbled on them. If someone comes into Joe’s and wants to use the donation, they simply pick off a note from the board and present it at the register. Part-owner Sunny Elezi received advice from a customer last year which inspired the program.
“We were feeding the homeless one night, and we had this customer who came in,” Elezi said. “He came to me and said, ‘I feel bad for you; you’re paying for all of this and giving away food.’ That’s when they gave me the idea for Pay it Forward.”
Elezi also said the program is great because it makes everyone at the restaurant happy. Because of the program, the less fortunate are able to have a hot meal and the restaurant does not have to turn away people who have no money.
The program has also enabled Joe’s to give back to the local Salvation Army. Donations that are not used by individuals at the restaurant are saved up so that Joe’s can cater at the charity. The restaurant even received a certificate of appreciation from the Salvation Army for contributing to the charity’s feeding program last October.
“If we have enough money for catering then we go by the Salvation Army so that kids and families can have a different meal,” Elezi said. “We try to help them out by bringing in a hot meal. We bring pizza, salad, pasta – whatever they like.”
Doni Elezi has worked at Joe’s for two years and said the program has shown him a caring side of the patrons who come into the restaurant.
“A lot of people have paid it forward,” Doni said. “You get to see how much people want to make a difference.”