PIP was founded in 1986 by Sr. Judy Tensing, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, and the late Sr. Barbara Wheeler, a Dominican Sister of Hope, when a group of women in the West End community of Cincinnati wanted to be more independent of welfare assistance. These women were determined to make a better life and see that their children stayed in school. Working together they opened their lives to new opportunities and were PIP’s grassroots beginning. Over the years, PIP has built a variety of paid training opportunities through small businesses, including catering, sewing, screen printing, and light carpentry.
In 1990, PIP was offered the opportunity to buy Venice Pizza, an old pizza parlor on Marshall and McMicken. We bought the business and equipment for $950 and, with help from several business partners, set out to learn to make pizza. Our catering business continued at the West End Center, serving churches and schools. The two programs served different customers, needs, and trainees. 1990 also began PIP’s Annual All You Can Eat Brunch, held each year in September; the current chair is Janet Schelb.
In 2003, we added job coach Gloria Cure to our staff to add more types of training. In 2004, our Venice building was sold and we decided to move to Over-the-Rhine. It took $250,000, two years, and the work of many volunteers including students and faculty of the University of Cincinnati and Miami University to renovate a vacant storefront into a friendly restaurant. We had special assistance from Roy Kaiser, who supervised all the construction, and Ruth Cronenberg who ran the capital campaign. In 2005 the Board determined the need for an Executive Director to stabilize and build on the programs initiated by Sr. Barbara and Sr. Judy. Rina Saperstein was hired as director in December 2006.
In September 2006, PIP moved to its current location at Venice on Vine. We were the first new restaurant/low-skill employer on Vine Street in a decade. The move consolidated our operations in one location and increased our visibility as a community organization. In May 2007, Sr. Barbara retired; she passed away in 2013. Also in 2007, Ruth Ann Ravenna initiated our successful annual “Sweetheart Raffle”; the current chair is Joyce Chiles. In 2008, we added academic tutoring to the program because we see math, reading, computers, and the GED as major keys to successful employment. In 2013 Mark Shannon was hired as director.
Tutoring compliments the teamwork, problem-solving, attendance, cooking, cleaning, and cash management skills taught on the job. In 2010 and 2011 we developed a new strategic plan led by Fred Brackmann, and Deskey Branding provided a focus study that taught us to see our role and strengths more clearly. As the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood changes, sales in our restaurant and catering programs are increasing dramatically, and our training program is growing to serve trainees in a more structured way.
Through the years, hundreds of Cincinnatians have found work and a supportive community at Venice as trainees, volunteers, teachers, donors, and more. A HUGE PIP thanks to everyone who helped us out along the way. You can read more about S. Judy and the work of PIP by going to How Sister Judy Tensing became Cincinnati’s unlikeliest entrepreneur.