WESTFIELD, NJ – Some 14 veterans turned out at a pizza shop on South Avenue Wednesday night for a quiet dinner provided on the house.
Outta Hand Pizza teamed up with the Martin Wallberg American Legion Post 3 in Westfield and community members who donated to the “Pre-Pay A Meal for a Veteran” program.
Burim Regjaj, one of the owners of the pizza shop, thought up the program after a man, who is a veteran, came into the shop earlier this year for a pepperoni slice but did not have the money to pay for it.
“It touched my heart,” Regjaj said. “How could a veteran in this country, the richest country in the world, have to struggle for a slice? It just broke my heart and that’s when I came up with the idea.”
The pizza shop collected community donations for and organized a meal for veterans, matching a portion of those funds donated and offering the space in the shop for the meal.
Westfield resident Lauren Chiusolo was among those to volunteer to serve the meals.
Chiusolo, 30, was raised by her late grandfather, a Korean War veteran, and so said she felt right at home with the veterans.
“These are the men that stand on the front lines to give us our freedom,” she said. “So the least we could do, my husband and I, was to give them a meal.”
Westfield resident Jim Sadowski, now 74, maintained Army tanks during the Vietnam War and later served 18 years with the National Guard at the Westfield Armory.
“This is very nice. I enjoyed it. Got to talk to a few people,” Sadowski said after finishing his meal. “It was a nice evening.”
The giving isn't over yet. Outta Hand will be delivering meals to the Valley Brook Veterans Facility in Lyons, for some who could not make it to the shop in Westfield, Regjaj said.
“This is not a handout,” he said. “This is just a credit to the promise [service members] made to us. You protect our way of living, we’ll take care of you.”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh