A 2nd Act: Food Is Love

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Posted By on February 25, 2021

Barro’s Pizza gives back, one slice at a time

“We’re Italian, and food is love!” Gina Barro said enthusiastically. From its roots in Italy with Grandmother Angelina to the 40 locations spread across Arizona today, award-winning Barro’s Pizza carries on that tradition.

But love from the Barro family goes far deeper than a thick and fluffy crust, topped with a tangy sauce. The lesson in love began with Gina’s parents, the business founders Doran and Angelo. “They wanted to give back and provide food for people,” Gina said.

“My mother was always helping, always giving. She wasn’t about the money or the business or the company worth. She gave personally, always asking if there was anything more to be done.” And just like that, the seed for “Barro’s Gives Back” was planted.

Their pizza night fundraisers have been a community staple for decades. Schools and organizations select a date, and 20 percent of all pizzas purchased that day is donated to them. But the idea of feeding people in need was close to the family’s heart. So in December 2012, Barro’s teamed up with St. Mary’s Food Bank, donating 100 percent of all the stores’ entire day’s proceeds. The event’s goal is to help reduce the number of Arizonans battling hunger during the holidays.

In 2014, Doran died of stomach cancer rather suddenly. The family renamed the event the Doran Barro Holiday Hunger Fight, appropriate as Doran had created it. Still held on the first Tuesday of every December, the event has raised more than $1.8 million.

The year their partnership with St. Mary’s was born, another idea bloomed. Barro’s partnered with Dr. Pepper for an annual Tuition Giveaway, awarding one lucky Arizona applicant $10,000. To date, they’ve given more than $85,000.

Of all the recipients, Gina remembers two especially well. “One year, the winner was a single mom, divorced with three children. She dreamed of a career in healthcare but didn’t have the funds to support her family and go to school. And then there was an amazing 18 year old who wanted to study fitness. His dream was to own a training center, but he realized he needed to begin with an education. We’re excited to watch his career growth,” she said.

And the list goes on. The Arizona Cancer Foundation for Children reached out to Barro’s in 2016. Together, they brainstormed the idea of a lunch giveaway. As with St. Mary’s, Barro’s donates 100 percent of lunch proceeds over four days each June to support the foundation. The more than $140,000 they’ve raised helps families with the high cost and challenging logistics of caring for a child with cancer.

“The foundation sends us photos and cards, all with smiling children,” Gina said. “I feel like those smiles reach out from the pictures and hug us. More importantly, they’re reminders of the good we’re able to contribute to our community.”

Angelo died of Alzheimer’s Disease just six months after Doran. Last fall, Four Peaks Brewing Company honored him with Angelo’s Ale, a golden ale brewed specifically to pair with the flavors found in the Barro’s secret family recipe. As you might expect, a percentage of every pint sold is donated to the Desert Southwest Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Gina loves her family’s philanthropic tradition. But there’s one more message she thinks is important. She’s third in birth order, with two older brothers and one younger. The boys helped their parents grow the family business, and as a young woman, she worked with them all off and on. But once married, she turned her attention to raising her children. Once they were grown, she started working in the office with her mother. After Doran died, Gina jumped in with both feet, at the age of 52.

“Many women still think that business ownership exists only in a man’s world,” Gina said. “I think it’s important to understand it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, how old you are, or your circumstances. I want women to know it’s never too late to follow their hearts.”

After all, big hearts are in no short supply in the Barro family. To learn more, go to barrospizza.com/barros-gives-back.

Judy Pearson

About Judy Pearson

Judy Pearson is a journalist, published author, and the founder of A2ndAct.org. Her organization supports and celebrates women survivors of all cancers as they give back to the greater good in their 2nd Acts. Her passion is finding those who have have healed themselves by helping others.