Lou Toarmina is founder and president of Toarmina’s Pizza. He has supported Life Remodeled since the first summer project near his home base in Westland in 2011. Those first few years he did what he does best, make pizza. He’s been feeding Life Remodeled volunteers, and more than a few leadership task force meetings, ever since.
Along the way, Lou had an inspiration.
“It’s nice to feed the volunteers at the Life Remodeled work sites every summer; but can we do more?” he recalls thinking.
That led to a major commitment – opening a store in each neighborhood following Life Remodeled’s investment in a given community. He partners with a local owner/operator to put them on the path to ownership. The operator in turn hires, trains and mentors local youth.
Following the Denby project in 2016, Orion Watson – previously profiled here – became the first operator of a Toarmina’s store under Lou’s plan. Orion takes great pride in training, educating and mentoring teens and young adults from Denby and neighboring Osborn – both in the art of pizza making and in life and work skills.
“It’s not just about learning a trade,” Lou said. “It’s being mentored to learn customer relations skills, the importance of being on time, of showing up for work every day, and so on.”
This summer’s project in Central and the transformation of Durfee Elementary Middle School into the Durfee Community Innovation Center will include another new Toarmina’s Pizza store; this time in the former cafetorium on Durfee’s first floor. A local owner/operator will hire, train and mentor youth from the area. With Durfee’s proximity to Central High School – right next door – the pizza store will be a learning lab, or “job factory,” as Lou calls it, for high school students. Lou wants to bring jobs to the city and he sees his approach as an effective way to tangibly invest in Detroit’s youth.
So once again, the ovens will be turning out thousands of lunches for Life Remodeled volunteers. But the sweet smell of Toarmina’s Pizza will linger long after the Six-Day Project concludes.