When Jenny and Mike Stevens opened their Little Caesars pizza franchise in Fargo, ND, in 2015, they didn't set out to make a difference in the community. However, after noticing a homeless man sitting outside a gas station for two hours one day, the couple and their two daughters, Sunday Stevens and Paige Loftus, decided to do something about it.
"My daughters and I were looking out of the window and saying should we get him something," Jenny told Today. "We brought him a pizza. He was so thankful and so gracious. Then we ended up doing it again for a different person. And again for a different person. And again for another person."
In fact, the Stevens family became so eager to help those in need, they went ahead and made a sign for the front door of the store, and soon enough, it got the community's attention. Mike, in particular, didn't think people should have to dig through the store's trash to find their next meal.
"To the person going through our trash for their next meal, you're a human being and worth more than a meal from a dumpster," reads the sign. "Please come in during operating hours for a couple of slices of hot pizza and a cup of water at no charge. No questions asked."
"To the person going through our trash for their next meal, You're a human being and worth more than a meal from a dumpster."
Jenny also noted that if someone in need asks for a full pie, they'll get one: "If someone comes in and they're asking for our donation pizzas, we don't give them a slice, we give them a whole pizza."
By 2016, the family started getting involved with more local charities and homeless shelters. "[Mike] said we have more than we need and these people are struggling to find their next meal, so why not help?" said Jenny. "Once a week is pizza night and they've invited us to come and serve the homeless men. I've been told that's their favourite night. To have this little night, one time a week that's pizza night and movie night, may sound like a silly thing, but it's making a continual difference in these people's lives."
Tragically, Mike passed away on Dec. 1, 2017, after battling leukemia. Despite losing her husband, Jenny hasn't stopped helping others.
As of Oct. 1, the pizzeria has given away more than 142,498 slices of pizza, which is about $70,000 worth of food, and its not planning on slowing down anytime soon. Now, Jenny is asking her patrons for a 50 cent donation at the checkout line. All it costs is 50 cents to feed a homeless person a single slice.
"It doesn't cover everything, but it's been a generous outpouring and people will drop in their loose change at the counter," she explained. "We just created a GoFundMe page as well to help us continue to donate pizzas to our beautiful community."
"[Mike] really, really pursued this," said Jenny. "It's a small thing that we can do to bring a big difference in their day and it's just kept going. You have to come together to help each other out. We just do it because it seems like the right thing to do."