Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Board Member Spotlight: Tom Checkosky. Co-Owner of Pepicelli’s Pizza Ashland

Board member since: January 2012

Tom and Lisa Checkosky
“I don’t believe in coincidences.” Tom Checkosky will be the first person to tell you that he’s here (meaning Ashland) “by the grace of whatever it is you want to call God.”  Checkosky used to be operational partner for 7 Domino’s Pizza restaurants in Western Pennsylvania. He started out as driver, became manager, worked his way up the ladder, and then left.

Before the recession hit, he was a regional manager of Best Buy for three days until the economy made them cancel plans for 10 new stores.

Then, after almost two years out of the food sector, he went into a local Pizza Pan restaurant to pick up an order and then proceeded to reconfigure the entire kitchen for the owners who seemed to be having “organizational issues.”  This lit the fire within Tom to get back into the pizza business.

Pepi seriously enjoys summer!
After an exhaustive search, Tom stumbled onto a pizza place for sale in Ashland, Virginia.  The landlord gave him a great deal on rent and even paid to move his store when Smokey Pig Catering left the space next to Ashland Ace Hardware. Other local residents wowed Tom with kindness, dinner, and good advice.  "I'm from up north.  I'm not used to people being nice to me without there being some kind of ulterior motive. I was sold."

And so Pepicelli’s Pizza of Ashland was established.  This was in 2007 and they are about to celebrate their 5th year in business.

Tom with Jimmy and Ani
Tom brought down his wife, Lisa, and two kids, Jimmy and Ani and they've been here ever since (EVERYONE helps at the store when necessary).

"Something always seems to happen every couple of years or so to make us move or whatever.  We've been in Ashland five years and it hasn't happened yet.  I'm convinced that we're supposed to be here."

The Checkoskys (and Pepicelli's Pizza) are active throughout the Ashland community via MAP, the Ashland Street Parties, and several other activities.

Through a strange series of “non-coincidences,” the Checkoskys became aware of CJ’sThumbs Up Foundation and were touched by the Reynolds’ story.  Tom was so moved that he decided to do everything he could to help make CJSTUF successful and even quit smoking as a result of his involvement with the Foundation.

Pepicelli’s Pizza donates meals to The Lunch Bunch (A joint effort between CJSTUF and Conner's Heroes Foundation to feed the families on the 7th floor of Children’s Hospital of Richmond) and was the Business Of The Month in May of 2011.  They will be the BOTM again in September, donating a portion of the month’s sales to CJSTUF.  On Monday, September 24th, CJSTUF co-founder Roger Reynolds will be delivering pizzas to Pepicelli's customers who add a small donation to their order.

Tom has dived into his CJSTUF participation with both feet and has become one of our most enthusiastic supporters.

Which is why we wanted to know the answers to:

4 and 1/2 Questions!!!

1) How often do you eat pizza made by another pizza place?

Answer: “Only on vacation and only mom and pop places.  Leonardo’s Pizza in the Outer Banks is a particular favorite as well as Causeway Pizza in Garden City Beach, NC.

2) Can you describe an atom? (I stole this from a website on interview questions)

Answer: “He’s the husband of Eve.”

(smart aleck)

3) How much taller than you is your wife, Lisa?

Answer: “5 inches.”

4) What animal, that you don't currently have, do you want most of all right now?

Answer: “I want either a big bird like an African Grey or a Cockatoo or a big dog (even though I already have two of each).”


1/2)  Don't you just love it when...

”employees don’t show up for work?”

Answer: “Yes I do!!!”  (There may have been a touch of sarcasm in his voice)

Visit for information about Pepicelli's Pizza of Asland.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Board Member Spotlight

Melissa Owens

Board Member since: Winter 2011

Melissa has been involved with CJSTUF since the very beginning.  As a friend of the Reynolds’ and a Music Therapist at VCU Health System, she had the opportunity to visit Charlotte’s room often, bringing music, positive energy, and faithful minions, a.k.a. “interns,” to help make an unbearable situation a little more bearable.

            Melissa grew up with music all around her.  With a mother who majored in music in college, the norm in her family was attending concerts and musicals, gathering around the piano at home, and singing “99 Bottles Of Beer On The Wall” 450,943 times on road trips (ok, that stat is made up).

She began college life as a Communications Disorders major and switched to Music Therapy when she found that she could merge her two loves into one career.

Melissa became the first official fundraiser to help with Charlotte’s care when she and one of her "faithful minions," Miriam Smith, designed and ordered the first pink “Prayers For Charlotte” bracelets.  The bracelets were sold for $3 and the money was given to the Reynolds.

When a group of CJSTUF Board members began to rotate off due to the end of their terms, Melissa was on the top of the prospectives list and it wasn’t necessary to ask her twice to join.  She officially assumed her position in winter of 2011.

            But little did she know that she would eventually have to answer:

4 and 1/2 Questions!!!

What was the last earworm (song) to get stuck in your head?

What is your favorite animated character (Disney or otherwise?)
Jiminy Cricket

On a scale of 1-10, what is your level of expertise at reading upside down?
10! My secret skill is reading song lyrics upside down. 

Who is your inner superhero??

What would you do if…
“I had an extra day every week?”
I would have a technology-free day with my family, and share some time with my favorite local charitable organization, CJSTUF! : ) 

Well played Warrior Princess...Well played.