Local Couple Opens Agapé Pizza to Help & Employ the Homeless Community
Photographer / JWcreative.indy
Giving hearts tend to gravitate towards one another. Such was the case for Angie and Tom Wilhelmi. When they met in 2009, they learned that they both had a passion for helping the homeless. For more than 25 years, Angie served as a police officer in a suburb of Chicago. Tom, who worked in the pizza business years ago, became a loan officer so he could help people reestablish their credit through mortgages. In 2017, the couple traveled to Greenwood to visit friends and fell in love with the area.
“Everybody was so wonderful, kind and genuine,” Angie says. “Something told us that this was going to be our new home.”
They prayed it over and two months later moved to Greenwood. As soon as they settled in, they started asking around to determine how they could best aid the homeless population in and around Indianapolis. They were introduced to Brian and Tiffany Walls, founders of Tear Down the Walls (TDTW), whose community development programs include remodeling abandoned buildings in impoverished, under-resourced neighborhoods of the inner city to be used for housing and ministry.
“Hooking up with Brian and Tiffany was a match made in heaven because our passions so perfectly align,” Angie says.
The Wilhelmis’ helped contribute to the cause by making pizzas in the kitchen of their church — Greenwood Christian Church — selling them and donating the profits to the homeless ministry.
“Tom and I are Italian,” Angie says. “We love food, and that’s how we see people come together — sitting around this feast full of food. To us, everybody is family. You live life together by talking, crying, sharing. That’s what life is all about.”
That vision is what inspired the couple to find a way to help those who are struggling to help themselves. One day last fall, a friend mentioned that Papa John’s had moved out of the stand-alone building in the far east parking lot of the Greenwood Park Mall. The wheels started turning and the couple looked into the cost of renting the space. As they suspected, the amount far exceeded what they could afford, but then they explained their plans for the space.
“We want to hire homeless people who are transitioning off the street and are in need of hope,” Tom explained. “Just because they’re getting off the street doesn’t mean they don’t still need help finding a job.”
A deal was struck, and the Wilhelmis’ were able to rent the space for an amount that was drastically less than originally stated.
Agapé Pizza opened on December 6, 2018, serving authentic Italian Chicago thin crust and pan style pizza. Their tagline — “pizza with a purpose” —articulates their devotion to providing hope to those who need it.
“Agapé means ‘God’s unconditional love,’” Angie says. “And that’s what we’re trying to stress.”
It seems to be working. According to Angie, the outpouring of love from the local community has been tremendous.
“People hear what we’re trying to do and become patrons because they want to help,” she says. “The tips have been incredible. Every penny of tip money goes directly to Tear Down the Walls.”
In addition, TDTW gets 5 percent of their net sales right off the top. And they only employ formerly homeless people who are now living in transitional housing. Currently, they have just two employees, but as business picks up, they hope to hire more. Though Tom and Angie are at the store almost daily, they don’t take a paycheck. They even occasionally provide transportation to and from the shop when employees can’t find a way in.
Open every day but Monday, Tom originally lobbied to be open seven days a week.
“Bless his heart, but I told him that for the sake of our marriage, we needed one day off,” Angie says.
He’s since agreed that his wife’s suggestion was a good one.
“We’re so grateful to finally have this opportunity,” Angie adds, noting that it has been a dream of theirs for years. It never worked out in Chicago, so they are grateful to the Greenwood community for embracing them.
“Simon & Company [who rented us the space have been incredibly accommodating,” she says. “We’re humbled they took a chance on us.”
Agapé Pizza is open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and is located at 1201 Greenwood Park East Drive in Greenwood. For more information, call 317-893-5117 or visit them online at agapepizza.com.