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By BRENNA GRITEMAN

LIFE EDITOR

This past weekend, Heavenly Pizza of Findlay received over $2,000 in donations to help provide free pizza to children affected by the state-mandated school shutdown.

And the restaurant is already putting the money to good use.

Owner Joshua Elchert said Monday the restaurant has expanded its pay-it-forward program, which has been providing a free slice of pizza and a bottle of water to students from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily for about a year. Customers purchasing a $2.50 slice can pay an additional $1 to provide the service.

Now, just weeks after transitioning to being open for weekday lunches for the first time in 10 years, Heavenly Pizza has extended the program to 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

“So that feels like a God thing,” Elchert said of the extended operating hours aligning nearly perfectly with the added need to feed schoolchildren.

The restaurant is also providing six to seven of its “jumbo”-size pizzas to feed about 75 children in the Cory-Rawson School District daily. Elchert said a representative from the school district comes to Findlay to pick up the pizzas daily in what Heavenly Pizza is considering an extension of the pay-it-forward program.

Additionally, the Findlay YMCA is dropping off food bags that children visiting the restaurant can take home with them.

“We’re facilitators. But ultimately, this is our community coming together and realizing there is a need. It’s a huge testament to our community,” Elchert said.

Cash and check donations can be made at the restaurant, 1404 N. Main St., or through a GoFundMe account accessed by searching “Pay It Forward with Heavenly Pizza” at gofundme.com.

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