A Philadelphia-based pizza shop is out here changing lives.
The lifelong friends and now co-founders Kurt Evans and Muhammed Abdul-Hadi have always been passionate about giving back to their community.
“We’re changing the quality of life for our community by being the hand that feeds and teaching others to do the same,” Evans said during an interview with “Good Morning America.”
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After several months of planning, the pair decided to combine their passion to serve and their love for pizza by opening Down North Pizza in the heart of North Philly last month.
They’ve witnessed firsthand how incarceration has impacted their loved ones who weren’t able to find employment upon their release from prison. It was a no-brainer for Abdul-Hadi and Evans to open the pizzeria as a way to do something about it.
“We just want to meet people where they’re at and help them along the way,” Evans said. “It was very important for us to help these people coming from the system and break the cycle of mass incarceration.”
Known for its delicious Detroit-style pizzas, Down North Pizza has opened its door to provide culinary career opportunities at a fair wage for those individuals who have previously been locked up by the justice system. All eight employees were taught various skills in the kitchen as a way to reenter society.
The business also offered six months of free rent at the upstairs apartment for those employees in need of short-term housing units in order to allow workers time to save funds for permanent living.
One of the first hires at the eatery with experience in the kitchen, Michael Carter, says working at Down North is about more than just making pizzas.
“I fit the criteria because of my own story. I was locked up in 2015, about two weeks before my youngest daughter was born,” Carter said. “I was happy to be a part of the mission and be able to push the line for social justice.”
For Abdul-Hadi and Evans, the hope is to be an example for Black-owned businesses and encourage other establishments to find ways to give back to their communities.