Hixson pizza restaurant starts generosity trend

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — New York Pizza Department off Highway 153 in Hixson has found a way to help the Hamilton County kids who rely on the school system for their meals each day.

“I can’t think of my kid not eating,” NYPD owner Erik Cilen said. “So I said, ‘I got food here. If people need to come eat, bring your kids here, and I’ll come feed them.'”

After seeing the reactions from parents about being unable to feed their children due to school closures, Cilen had a late night idea. He’s prepared to give free food to every child, or family, that needs it during these uncertain times.

“I think it’s great, as a parent, but also as a lifelong Hixson community member, and I really think this shows kind of what this community’s made of,” Brett Smalley said. “These are unprecedented times with this whole deal, so for parents to have a little bit of that stress taken off is a great mission to have.”

A mission that will take longer hours, and a lot more food — something his suppliers had no trouble helping with.

“I’m going to run out of product. I’m going to need more product,” Cilen said. “They [Performance Food Service] don’t normally deliver on Saturdays, but they just confirmed they’re going to bring me a truck tomorrow to keep it going.”

“We want to showcase that that’s what our business is about,” sales manager Lauren Michalski said. “Helping out small communities, reaching out to people, doing what we can.”

It’s not just Cilen’s suppliers that have lent a hand.

“I’ve been overwhelmed with response rate, and people calling up wanting to help donate, pay for the food,” Cilen said.

One customer called to prepay for 200 slices of pizza. Chattanooga Home Inspector donated one thousand dollars at lunchtime Friday afternoon.

“My wife actually posted something this morning about how proud she is to live in a city with the capability and the people that are able to donate, or do whatever it takes in a time of need,” said Malcolm Godwin, owner of Chattanooga Home Inspector.

“The community just, making Tennessee the volunteer state, literally what it is,” Cilen said. “I’m a vessel through God, and it’s His glory, and I just want to do what I’m told to do. This is my way.”

100 percent of the donations will go directly to feed those in need.

If you’d like to donate to the cause, you can call the restaurant directly at (423) 531-8830, or you can donate to the PayPal account here.

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