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LaRosa’s gives back during the holidays

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Friday, December 11, 2009

By Mike Dyer

ARCHDIOCESE — LaRosa’s believes the holiday season is a perfect time to help make a significant difference in the lives of people in need around the community. This year is certainly no different.

The local pizza chain is again raising money for the Freestore Foodbank during the holiday season, when demand for the organization’s services is at its highest. A portion of the proceeds from every large pizza sold throughout the area from LaRosa’s will be donated to the Freestore Foodbank.

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John Young, CEO/president of the Freestore Foodbank, left, poses with LaRosa’s CEO, Michael LaRosa, with a check reflecting the proceeds from the local pizza chain’s 2007 holiday promotion. (Courtesy photo)

The fundraising program started Nov. 17 and will continue until Dec. 27. It includes large pizzas purchased for dining in, pick-up and delivery.

Michael LaRosa, CEO of LaRosa’s, said the plan is to raise at least $35,000 for the Freestore Foodbank. The check will be presented to the agency in early January.

“In addition to generating funds, we also hope to highlight the issue of hunger in the Tri-State,” said LaRosa, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Cincinnati. “After all, we’re in the business of making sure people have enough to eat.”

The Freestore Foodbank distributes 10 million pounds of food and other products annually across 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, according to the organization’s official website. More than 200,000 individuals benefit from the organization each year. The distribution center is located on East Liberty Street in Over-the-Rhine.

The organization is a partner with more than 350 non-profit agencies in the area. The Freestore Foodbank works to determine the root causes of poverty and food insecurity and it provides several services that also include emergency clothing, housing services, food stamps assistance, Medicaid outreach and others aimed at creating self-reliance.

The holiday season, coupled with a tough economy, has placed a greater need on helping the hungry at this time of the year. The Freestore Foodbank website reported the line for Thanksgiving food distribution line began at 5 a.m. during one particular day leading up to the holiday. More than 108,000 pounds of food were served to 2,600 families that day.

“We’ll be asking our community in increasing ways to be a part of feeding our families who are challenged,” said John Young, president and CEO of the Freestore Foodbank. “We are seeing more and more people particularly, over the last year-and-a-half or so. There are lots of people who have never been in the position or in need to ask for help before.”

Young said the LaRosa’s promotion provides a significant opportunity to help those individuals in need. Because of tough economic times, Young said often people are forced to choose between paying an electric bill, paying for a prescription or providing food for their family.

“We hope people will support a wonderful local company and in the process of having a great product in LaRosa’s pizza, they also have an opportunity to help their neighbors who dearly need food,” Young said. He added that he isn’t surprised to see the company provide such a generous program this holiday season.

“Mike and [founder] Buddy [LaRosa] have been very good for the Freestore for years,” Young said.

Over the last five years, LaRosa’s has donated nearly $100,000 through a candy cane sale at the pizzerias. The company decided it would be easier this year to donate from a portion of the large pizza sales. There are posters located in each pizzeria, along with radio and TV commercials highlighting the promotion. About 60 percent of all pizzas sold are large, according to LaRosa.

“We would expect (the donations) will feed a significant number of families,” Young said.

Said LaRosa, “Giving back to the neighborhoods we serve has been a part of what we do since my father opened our first pizzeria. It’s always a good feeling to know that you’re making a difference in someone’s life, just by doing what you do every day.”

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