West Side Catholic Center raises funds to make improvements at Ohio City Pizzeria

Almost a year ago, the West Side Catholic Center (WSCC) bought and opened Ohio City Pizzeria, 3223 Lorain Ave., as a way to not only bring in revenue for the nonprofit, but to support its mission of helping people get on the track to success and bolster its workforce development program.


WSCC welcomes hungry guests eager to eat Italian, while at the same time teaching its employees the job skills they need to go on and secure better jobs and get back on their feet.


Now WSCC is expanding its training at Ohio City Pizza to ensure WSCC clients are prepared to move on to other jobs, says executive director John Litten.


So, WSCC launched a $50,000 campaign help raise the level of training, update its kitchen, and make improvements to the overall pizzeria.


“We want to focus on the training aspect, says Litten. “The business is doing really well, but this is a push to grow the [workforce development] program.”


The organization created a unique way to make donations. Ohio City Pizzeria patrons can now own a piece of the bar for a donation to WSCC.


­$1,000 donors get a dining room seat in their names; $2,500 buys naming rights to a bar stool; $5,000 and have a menu item named after you; $10,000 buys naming rights to the bar for five years; and $20,000 buys the rights to the dining room for five years. Of course, donations of all sizes are welcome.


“We knew going in it would be an interesting adventure,” says WSCC executive director John Litten. “We’ve always had a job training program at WSCC, and we added Ohio City Pizzeria to [augment the training].”


Litten says he wants to implement personalized training for each pizzeria employee to develop soft skills in addition to basic skills—addressing the issues each trainee needs help with before going on to another job.


“Maybe they haven’t been in the workforce for a while, perhaps there are mental health challenges, or confidence issues,” he says. “[We want to look at] how we build people up to be stronger. So, when they go on to another job where the boss may be less forgiving, we want then to be prepared for that.”


Litten says WSCC staff are serving as support systems for the clients as they build their skills and confidence. This year, eight Ohio City Pizzeria trainees have reentered the workforce or gone on to other workforce development programs.


“We’ve tried to look at how we do this, less by [thinking of it] as profit and loss, and more of an investment in people.”


Ohio City Pizzeria’s dining room will re-open on Thursday, June 18 after closing in March because of COVID-19. Litten says they have been working on some new additions to the menu. He says reservations are a must and can be made by calling (216) 281-5252.


Of course, donors do not have to buy naming rights to support WSCC—donations of any size are accepted. To make a donation of any size, click here

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.