By Kathy Brown.
(Jan. 9, 2021) — Aleia Goodison and Vincent Scileppi Jr. recognized a problem and found a solution. “Vincent and I realized that the pandemic was making it harder than usual for low-income or struggling families to provide food for themselves,” said Aleia, a sophomore at Haddam Killingworth High School. “We were determined to find some sort of solution.” They created one: Pizza 4 Pals.
Vincent, also a sophomore, attends Xavier High School in Middletown.
Even though both Aleia and Vincent are from Haddam, they thought that there were more families in Middletown in need. “In Middletown there are two schools in which most of the kids who attend are on the free lunch program,” explained Vincent. “Most of these kids can only afford one meal a day, so that’s where we came up with the idea.”
Their original plan was to provide pizzas for families in late summer, but due to material orders being backed up due to COVID, that didn’t come to fruition. But they didn’t let that deter them. They got everything organized and started raising funds and started making pizzas. They delivered pizzas at the holidays, which is also a difficult time for families. “We decided this would be a perfect time to provide these families with our ‘take and bake’ pizzas because it would ensure people could eat during the holidays,” said Aleia. In late December, they did just that: distributed over 700 pizzas to families in Middletown, at tMacDonough and Spencer schools, where cars were lined up to get pizzas.
Aleia and Vincent set up a Facebook page, where they were fundraising, as well as providing updates of their progress. The pandemic isn’t over, and families are still struggling.
Vincent’s father, Vinnie (Sr.), owns Illiano’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in Middletown. “I just helped by purchasing some equipment specifically for mass production of the pizzas,” said Vinnie “I taught them how to make the product, and made the connection at the Middletown school district to get them disbursed. It’s very nice to see that they want to help out the community during these trying times and it tells me that they get it.”
Vinnie Scileppi Sr. is no stranger to giving back. During the height of the pandemic, Iliano’s was delivering pizzas to front line workers at area hospitals.
The teens are planning on continuing to feed the community. “We are hoping to recruit some of our peers/friends to help make and deliver the pizzas,” said Aleia. “Once we’re off to college, we hope to pass down the fundraiser to our siblings. They said they will happily take responsibility and continue providing for the less fortunate.”
Their goal is to continue fundraising so that they can keep the momentum and the pizzas going. There will be a fundraising link on Illianos website by the end of the week if you would like to donate to their project.
“Helping the people in need makes me feel great,” said Vincent. “It was great to see everyone’s smiles on their faces when we delivered them. It also makes you realize that some people are not as fortunate as us, and could really use the help when it is offered to them.”
“This year we hope to make a few more deliveries,” said Vincent, “especially in the summertime when the kids are not going to school.” When the kids aren’t in school, there isn’t a way to participate in the free lunch program at the school.
“We would just like to give a huge thanks to the people who have already donated,” said Aleia. Not only do we appreciate it, but every penny helps make a difference by providing for Middletown families in need.”
Photos provided by Vincent and Aleia.