UNICO coupons helping feed families, save small businesses in Wethersfield

Hartford

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — Leo’s Pizza in Wethersfield is working overtime to make pies and meatballs in this pandemic.

“We have a supportive community,” John Papas, owner of Leo’s Pizza, said. “We’ve been here since 1975, so yeah, hopefully, we survive it.”

Helping drum up business is $25 coupons coming from white envelopes tucked into the food pantry grocery bags.

“When they find that coupon in their food bag when they pick up, they’re very excited,” Christina Morra-Tiu, Wethersfield Social Services, told News 8.

Struggling families use it to pay for food at one of a dozen eateries including Chimirri’s Bakery, Pasta Vita, Fresh Monkey and Leo’s Pizza.

“It makes them feel better that they are helping the community and getting something to eat from one of their favorite restaurants,” said Morra-Tiu.

UNICO, the Italian American service organization, donated $5,000 worth of the special coupons — helping more than 150 families.

“We are helping the people who need it, and two, we were trying to help the restaurants who have been seeing the layoffs and not being able to make the sales,” Morris Borea, President UNICO Wethersfield, said.

UNICO reimburses the business when the coupons are cashed in.

Wethersfield Mayor Mike Rell said on a recent economic development call he learned “more than 25 percent of those that employ 50 or less may be out of business in the next two months,” which is why the local Chamber of Commerce is encouraging small businesses to apply for government help.

Papas applied for a federal disaster loan and hopes he’ll get some relief.

“It went out to a lot of the bigger companies. Hopefully, some of the little guys get it.”

UNICO, which was founded 98 years ago in Waterbury, has also donated $1,000 to Foodshare and has purchased food for first responders in the greater Hartford area.

The town and UNICO agree the coupon program is so popular they may end up doing a second round after June.

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