By Tom Lisi
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
A group of Pittsburgh-based businesses and support-service organizations want to provide some emotional relief and community fun in a difficult time with a proven method: a pizza party.
Called Summer Takeoff, it’s a virtual pizza party taking place online June 26 at 6 p.m., but the pizza will be as real as ever, according to Shanon Williams, founder of Wellness Collective, a network of residents and organizations that delivers various support services for everything from mental health to housing needs.
“We want to have something that’s fun for everybody, both kids and adults,” Williams said. “Because folks right now are feeling kind of itchy being at home,” especially with growing uncertainty over whether rising COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County could reverse eased lockdown restrictions.
Whether it’s emotional and mental health difficulties or economic insecurity, Williams said she wants folks to know there are many more groups and organizations that offer critical support services than they may realize — and might be able fill needs for those who might not meet the qualifications of well-known assistance programs.
“Essentially we’re here to have a fun activity, but also it’s an introduction to all these great resources and Black-owned businesses and mental-health-support folks in our area that you can engage with,” Williams said.
The idea helped come about, Williams said, when J.E. Gamble, owner of R Pizza Spot in McKees Rocks offered to donate 50 pizzas to families who may be struggling with access to food. Williams and Tammy Thompson, executive director of Circles Greater Pittsburgh, developed the event to offer more than just fresh pizza.
Wellness Collective will use its volunteer-run food delivery network to distribute the pizzas, and other restaurants have agreed to donate some of their own pies as well, according to Williams.
Other organizations are supporting the event as well, including Reading is Fundamental, Ujamaa Collective, Circles Greater Pittsburgh, Uptown Partners and Vitamin C Healing.
A full list of partner organizations for Summer Takeoff and other details about the party can be found here.