A Slice of Altruism

Falora and Ben’s Bells create awareness of intentional kindness with an unexpected pizza.

September 9, 2016

GleaningsIssue 20: September/October 2016

Turns out, eating a pizza can be more than a delicious dinner—it can also help support a local nonprofit. Falora, an artisan pizza restaurant in Broadway Village, serves a pizza that benefits Ben’s Bells Project, a Tucson-based organization dedicated to infusing kindness into everyday life.

The Ben’s Bells Project was founded in 2003 by Jeannette Maré after her son Ben died suddenly. Maré found herself feeling desperate, depending on the kindness of neighbors and friends to get by. She began working with the community on therapeutic clay projects, which blossomed into the activist organization she runs today. Ben’s Bells holds kindness education workshops that produce community-sourced art in the form of bells. By the time each bell is complete, at least 10 people have played a role in sculpting, painting, firing clay pieces, or stringing beads.

Each of the Bene Bell pizza’s ingredients is significant. Falora’s classic base of red sauce from San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella cheese are topped with green peppers, artichoke hearts, and snap peas. The bell peppers play off of the nonprofit’s namesake, and artichoke hearts symbolize caring and empathy. Ben’s favorite vegetable, sugar snap peas, is a natural crunchy addition.

The Bene Bell pizza, which debuted on the Falora menu three years ago, has raised more than $5,500 in donations. Now on the permanent menu, the dish has become a reliable source of funding for Ben’s Bells programming.

The Bene Bell pizza at Falora.

The Bene Bell pizza at Falora.

At Ben’s Bells, “Our goal is to create a culture where kindness is in the air,” says Maré. And Ben’s Bells has done just that. The bright green Be Kind flower stickers grace bumpers and rear windshields throughout town. The bells themselves can be seen hanging on porches, decorating parks, and strung in trees.

The Bene Bell is very much a conversation starter. Many people say, “That’s so Tucson!” referring to the collaboration between a nonprofit and a restaurateur, says Maré. Food is something around which we commune, and pizza starts conversations.

“If you come to Falora, you are more than likely going to sit close to someone you don’t know,” says Ari Shapiro, owner of Falora. With long, shared tables and platters that serve many, Falora’s design is conducive to communal eating.

“We’ve seen people make friends and we’ve seen people sharing pizza with strangers,” says Shapiro. “There’s very little awkwardness at this point.”

“I was always intrigued by the roles that businesses can play in their community, in their towns, cities, counties, immediate surroundings,” says Shapiro. Shapiro met Maré around the time the Ben’s Bells studio opened in downtown Tucson in 2012; at the time, Shapiro owned a coffee shop, Sparkroot, just a few blocks away. The city of Tucson is repeatedly ranked as one of the most caring cities in the nation. “Tucson is prime ground for this to happen, but these seeds are being planted in other places,” says Maré. Ben’s Bells now has locations in Phoenix and Bethel, Connecticut.

“We want people to see that kindness is a regular part of life,” says Maré. “It’s just like pizza.”







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