Friday, February 12, 2016

Love Don't Stink--It's Covered in cheese!

Mayowa Tomori, born in Nigeria, tried his first slice of pizza at age 10 after his family moved to the States. He fell in love instantly. Last year, on Valentine’s Day, the cash-starved Indiana University graduate student shared his pizza devotion with battered women and children at an Indy-area domestic abuse shelter.Tomori was simply following through on his firm belief that “pizza can bring people together in an amazing way.”

The musical technology student occasionally volunteered at a shelter in his Irvington, Indiana, neighborhood, east of Indy, called the Julian Center. The non-profit agency offered a safe refuge for folks dealing with violence, instead of love, handed out by those they trusted most. Despite his own shallow student pockets, Tomori’s imagination soared to the tune of a pizza dream for people hurting for some hope and a comforting meal.

The African immigrant, who sports a pizza tattoo and considers his favorite edible an “enduring symbol of love,” describes pizza as the quintessential comfort food. During a grad school internship creating a Pizza Hut ad campaign, Tomori fully grasped the worldwide explosion of pizza passion. “I noticed posts on Twitter like ‘I love you more than pizza.’ An ad for a domestic abuse shelter depicted a woman calling up a pizzeria and instead of ordering, she simply said, 'Send help!' I realized I needed to change my approach to life—and LOVE sounded like good place to start.”

Tomori fixed his loving gaze on the Julian Center, where he knew real humanitarians were offering empathy in the face of despair. “I really believe that pizza is just about the nicest thing you can do for someone,” Tomori says. A real-life musical scientist—he recently designed his own pizza-controlled synthesizer—Tomori rocked out his heart-felt anthem accompanied by 45 Jackamo Upper Crust Pizza-supplied pie high fives. Together, the community-minded three-location pizzeria and Tomori and friends fed 110 Julien Center residents on V-Day, 2015.

But the Nigerian whiz kid and his volunteer band did much more than share pizza with their grateful shelter neighbors. “We made Valentine’s cards with the kids and helped out in the kitchen,” Tomori recalls during a phone conversation from his new home in Oakland, California. Since graduating and moving to Oakland, Tomori runs his own business, endearingly named PizzaLabs. The pizza-fueled entrepreneur develops interactive multi-media presentations for museums and schools. He works with his girlfriend, who he met back in Indy while recruiting volunteers for his “Valentine’s Day Miracle.” “I sent a pizza over to her after-hours school art program and then I invited her to join my team. It’s literally true that pizza brought us together,” he explains.

Tomori has equally nice things to say about the wonderful people at Jackamo’s Upper Crust Pizza back in the Hoosier State who discounted Tomori’s 2015 pizza Valentine. “They have great pizza and they gave us a 15% discount for something like $300 for the 40-plus pies,” he says. “As a struggling college student, I could have never pulled this off on my own.”

This year, circumstances dictate a more modest contribution to a local Bay Area bakery that employs the developmentally disabled. But Tomori’s torrid love affair with his adopted country’s hottest delectable shows no signs of cooling down. “Nigerians don’t eat lot of cheese, but the first time I tasted a slice as a kid I was hooked forever,” he recalls. "I’m lactose intolerant—but I love it too much to stop.” That’s right, Cupid! Love don’t stink—it’s smothered in cheese!

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