No matter how you slice it, a little bit of kindness goes a long way. Just ask Jonathan Yudis, who helps feed Maui’s hungry and homeless through his “Charity Pizzas” community service project.
Since 2016, Yudis, a Realtor-Salesperson with Keller Williams Realty Maui, has been hand-delivering hot and fresh pizza slices to Maui’s unsheltered. “I go out once a month and occasionally twice a month around the holidays. I usually buy two or three pizzas per delivery and give every slice away,” he explained. “While I recognize that handing out pizza isn’t going to eradicate homelessness, this is more of a personal effort to brighten someone’s day and remind myself that we are all in this together.”
Yudis says the monthly pizza deliveries began three years ago after his then-13-year-old son, William, came to him with an idea. “He told me that he wanted to do something to help those in our local community that were homeless,” he said. “I remembered my experiences both in high school and beyond when I volunteered in soup kitchens and for Meals on Wheels programs, so I suggested he could go out one day and help feed those in need. He did some research and put together a flyer with information on local resources and shelters for the homeless. Then, together, we bought a bunch of pizzas and drove around and he gave slices, water, and the flyer to those that appeared to be living on the streets or hungry and in need.”
As it turned out, it wouldn’t be a one-time thing. “The best part of the experience was the opportunity to connect with people one-on-one and simply let them know we cared,” he said. “So, after that day, I was inspired to keep the pizza charity service going.”
Since then, Yudis has become a familiar face at Costco’s pizza pick-up window. After purchasing the piping-hot pies, he loads them into his car and hits the road, keeping his eyes peeled for anyone who may need a meal. When he spots someone, Yudis said, “I pull over and say, ‘I’ve got fresh pizza, would you like a slice?’ It often catches people off guard and they say things like: ‘are you for real?’ or ‘you have no idea how much this means to me right now.’ Then it gets even better when I say: ‘cheese or pepperoni?’ and they realize they can choose.”
On one rainy delivery day, Yudis found a man living in his van near Kanaha Beach Park in Kahului. “He was ill, so he couldn’t even get up to receive the plate of pizza,” he recalled. “When I handed it to him, he thanked me and quietly said he hadn’t eaten in two days. It’s moments like that where it feels like it’s about much more than a slice of pizza; it’s more about reaching out to another human being to show we care. We often carry inaccurate stereotypes about those living on the streets. It’s amazing how many people that just lost a job, fell behind on their rent, or are going through a tough stretch end up living in their cars right here on Maui.”
That’s why Yudis encourages others to consider helping Maui’s hungry and homeless in any way they can—pizza deliveries or otherwise. “I feel truly blessed to be alive and have a roof over my head and food to eat,” he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in life and forget to be grateful for these basic things. This charity effort is an important reminder to me to never forget that without these basic needs met, nothing else in my life would matter. It’s also an opportunity to lend a helping hand to those who are going through challenging times and can use some support.”
You can help Yudis keep the Charity Pizzas delivery service rolling by making a donation to purchase pizzas, signing up to volunteer, or becoming a Charity Pizzas sponsor. To learn more or to make a contribution, visit www.charitypizzas.com.
By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – May 25, 2019