Thursday, January 1, 2004

Nuns' pizzeria gets breather


Kindness of strangers

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS - An outpouring of support from people and foundations throughout Greater Cincinnati on New Year's Eve has saved a pizzeria run by Roman Catholic nuns.

Power Inspires Progress, a nonprofit agency that operates Venice Pizza on West McMicken Street, was served an eviction notice Monday because it hadn't paid its rent. A Hamilton County Municipal Court judge ordered the business to move within 10 days.

It didn't take long for philanthropists to respond after hearing news of the agency's plight.

Sister Judy Tensing, a member of the Notre Dame de Namur order and co-founder of Power Inspires Progress, said she received nearly 80 phone calls Wednesday from people eager to lend a hand.

The Greater Cincinnati Foundation offered the agency an emergency grant to cover its debts and pay for moving expenses. Officials at the FreeStore/FoodBank offered to store frozen food items and equipment.

A downtown businessman offered to pay the difference between the $400 rent the pizzeria had been paying and the $600 rent being charged by the new landlords. Another man handed Tensing a $100 check to cover the agency's court costs.

One agency even offered to negotiate prices on some of its rental properties

A Liberty Township man volunteered his tractor-trailer to help haul the pizza parlor's giant stoves and deep freezers to a new location. A Cincinnati woman offered her van, four teen-agers and space in her garage to help with the move.

"This community provides strength when people are down," Tensing said. "We feel like there is a lot of hope and a lot of support behind us."

Power Inspires Progress reached a deal with the landlords that will allow them to remain in the McMicken Street store through the end of January. However, Tensing said the landlords would not extend the lease.

Mesut Gultepe, one of the landlords, could not be reached for comment.

"We are going to move on to another place," Tensing said. "The employees are very happy because they were wondering, 'What is going to happen to us?'"

Power Inspires Progress provides part-time jobs for hard-to-employ people. Venice Pizza employed about 12 workers who were paid minimum wage up to $7 an hour.

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com




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