20 years after 9/11 fundraiser, Hillside Pizza reaches half-million in donations

  • The spirit of giving trickles down from owners to employees at Hillside Pizza. Northfield resident Olivia Rowe organized a hat and mitten drive for the Salvation Army this past winter. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Hillside Pizza owner Craig White with manager Alice Amidon at the Bernardston branch. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Hillside Pizza owner Craig White with Lt. Paul Leslie of the Greenfield Salvation Army. The pizza shop donates 20 pizzas every Thursday to help feed those in need. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Hillside Pizza owner Craig White at the Bernardston branch. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Hillside Pizza’s Bernardston location. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/9/2021 4:30:58 PM

BERNARDSTON — Twenty years after its first fundraiser as a new business helped pay for therapy for young children following the traumatic 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hillside Pizza continues to give back to the community, having raised more than a half-million dollars to date.

The locally owned restaurant, wholesale supplier, catering company and fundraising program, with locations in South Deerfield, Hadley and Bernardston, was founded by Craig White and Bob Lindner in 2001 with a commitment to offer healthy, local organic food and better the community. For 20 years, the business has provided “Take & Bake” pizzas, “Scoop & Bake” cookie dough tubs and gift certificates for regular community fundraisers, benefiting countless causes.

Just after staff began baking their first pizzas in September 2001, Hillside Pizza partnered for their first fundraisers with The Bement School in Deerfield — where Craig White previously worked — as well as the Greenfield Second Congregational Church’s Youth Group.

“That was the week of 9/11,” Amy White, Hillside Pizza co-owner, and Craig’s wife, recalled. “Orders were being placed for pick-up that Friday, and 9/11 was that Tuesday.”

“We had just started the business, literally just started it,” Craig White said. “The Bement School was doing a fundraiser for Nature’s Classroom, and the Second Church was doing a fundraiser for a Russian orphanage. I remember because I was a member of Second Church at that time.”

The Whites said members of the church’s Youth Group decided in the wake of the sudden tragedy to redirect fundraising profits from their already sold pizzas to benefit the organization Hope From the Rubble. Craig White said this was a group of therapists working with elementary school children who had been traumatized by the terrorist attacks. Hillside Pizza matched the money from the church group’s fundraiser for a more than $2,000 total donation.

In remembrance of the events of 9/11 and this first donation, each of Hillside Pizza’s three locations will be donating $911 to a charity of their choice. Hadley’s Hillside Pizza, managed by Bob Lindner’s daughter Kim, will donate to the Amherst Survival Center. The recently consolidated South Deerfield Hillside Pizza at Yankee Candle, managed by Lindner’s son Jack, will donate to the Franklin Land Trust.

Signs hanging inside Hillside Pizza’s Bernardston restaurant proudly state the restaurant recently surpassed over a half-million in fundraising to date — “all of which has been invested back into the local community,” Craig White said. As a small, non-corporate company, the Whites said they are proud that their fundraisers “keep money from local customers going to local causes” such as for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Franklin County, school programs and recreational sports leagues.

Not included in this $500,000 total is the more $15,000 raised since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to benefit the Greenfield Salvation Army’s meal programs each Wednesday and Thursday. Between March 2020 and the week of Aug. 23, Hillside Pizza had served about 15,100 meals through the Salvation Army.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to be able to have the support of Hillside Pizza and the community,” said Greenfield Salvation Army Lt. Paul Leslie. “It has really been crucial, especially over the last year and a half, when the majority of days we’ve seen an increase in meal counts.”

Hillside Pizza serves more than 200 people a week through the Salvation Army and — after being inspired by a young boy asking for an extra orange — provides more than 400 pieces of fresh fruit for guests to bring home on Wednesdays. With the ability to buy supplies and produce wholesale, Amy White said costs equal roughly $1 per meal and weekly costs total $200 to $250, with all labor from volunteers.

To donate to Hillside Pizza’s continued meal services with the Salvation Army, visit fundly.com/hillside-pizza-community-meal-service.

In addition to working with the Salvation Army, Hillside Pizza provides 50 frozen “Take & Bake” pizzas for the Orange Food Pantry and Franklin County Community Meals Program each month. This partnership began alongside Hillside Organic Catering, which is owned by Patrick and Cindy O’Hearn, this February when the catering company was serving weekly hot meals at the Orange Food Pantry, located in the Orange Armory.

The spirit of giving trickles down from owners to employees at Hillside Pizza, too. Olivia Rowe, a Northfield resident and employee of three years who is entering Greenfield Community College’s nursing program this fall, organized a hat and mitten drive for the Salvation Army this past winter.

“I saw Craig donating to the shelter every week and it’s been such a hard year for everyone,” Rowe said. “I couldn’t believe how many donations we got. We had huge boxes and trash bags and boxes just filled with stuff for everyone. It was a really great feeling dropping that off.”

Reflecting on his and Lindner’s start 20 years ago, Craig White said “right from the beginning it was not to be about us — it was to be about the community.”

“We don’t do all the things we do because it makes us money,” he said, “but with the money that we make we’re able to do all the things we do.”

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.


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