Hòa Voscott slices a combo pizza that’s just come out of the oven at Central Pizza Pies’ second Pop-Up for Good. This combo is half four cheese with fresh basil and half “3P” – Pepperoni, Poblano and Parmesan. Photo from Central Pizza Pie

Every night, people everywhere gather together over a meal, huddling around a table to share their days and experiences. It is this simple connection over food that allows people to see eye-to-eye, even if it is just for a short time. At Central Pizza Pie, Hòa Voscott and Ned Schaub use this connection to make a change in the world, gathering people around food to raise money for local nonprofits.

Mr. Voscott and Mr. Schaub, founders of Central Pizza Pie and PopUps for Good, started this public benefit enterprise to raise money for local charities, uniting people over one universally loved food – pizza. After the pair moved to Evanston from the San Francisco Bay Area about three years ago, Mr. Voscott said he found himself missing the pizza in California, and on a day in October 2017, Mr. Schaub suggested he start cooking the pizzas himself.

Mr. Voscott went on to learn everything he could about pizza making, perfecting the crust and coming up with seasonal recipes. Coupled with Mr. Schaub’s history with nonprofits and social justice organizations, PopUps for Good, one-off pizza fundraisers, became their first foray into serving pizza to the public. On March 4, the first PopUp for Good came to fruition as Mr. Voscott and Mr. Schaub set their sights on helping the Evanston community.

“With the situation in our country, there’s just so many cutbacks on vital programs, and we are very focused on our community,” Mr. Voscott said. “There is so much happening globally, but we want to focus locally. We feel great helping organizations and then having them help us get the word out.”

To raise money, Central Pizza Pie sells tickets – $20 for adults and $10 for children – for community members to enjoy pizza, salad, fountain drinks and desserts, Mr. Voscott explained. Each pop-up takes place on the second Sunday of the month at Curt’s Cafe North, a local Evanston cafe that offers at-risk young adult’s training in work and life skills. This partnership allows Central Pizza Pie to use the space in the evening hours when Curt’s is closed, splitting their profits between Curt’s and the nonprofit featured at each pop-up.

“The beauty of Curt’s is it’s open in the morning and early afternoon, so we can use it evenings and weekends,” Mr. Voscott explained. “So we are helping them in terms of increasing revenue, using their staff and training. It’s just a brilliant way to share space and collaborate.”

Their latest pop-up on July 8 focused on refugee services, raising money for First Presbyterian Church of Evanston’s refugee resettlement program, “First Friends.” The choice to focus on fundraising for refugees was not only a timely one, but was of particular importance to Mr. Voscott, who came to the United States from Vietnam with his family at only 6 years old. A First Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania helped Mr. Voscott’s family transition into life in America, and their work continues to have great importance today, Mr. Voscott explained.

“I came [to the U.S.] when I was 6, and I just can’t imagine if I was somehow separated from my family at that horrible time. It was already a very scary time, and we had everyone there to help us,” Mr. Voscott said. “I feel really strongly about this – that we need to do something in our own small way.”

And the PopUp for Good on July 8 did just that. Over 160 people came to that event and raised $2,700 – $1,700 going to First Friends and $1,000 for Curt’s Cafe.

This is only the start for Central Pizza Pie and their PopUp’s for Good. With the next pop-up scheduled for Aug. 12, Mr. Voscott said they plan to ramp up the number of pop-ups they host after summer is over. He added they have a goal of eventually hosting multiple pop-ups a week, giving Evanstonian’s a chance to make a change in their own community.

“Sometimes you feel helpless. What can you do? How can you stop people from separating families?” Mr. Voscott asked. “What you can do is call your congressperson, march, volunteer and vote. You can also come out and support great Evanston nonprofits that help families – and enjoy great pizza at the same time.”

The next PopUp for Good will be held at Curt’s Café North on August 12 from 5:30 to 9 and will benefit Interfaith Action of Evanston’s homeless support services. Tickets are available at centralpizzapie.com.