Pittsburghers gathered at the Ace Hotel for one of 200 Dinners in 2016.

Want to do your part to make our city stronger and more connected? Consider being a host for The Big Table.

On April 17, Leadership Pittsburgh will join with dozens of local partners for The Big Table, a day of community events encouraging Pittsburghers to break bread and connect with their neighbors.

Meals can take any form and can take place anywhere — at homes, offices, libraries, churches or other host venues. The idea is to get together over good food and conversation about any and all issues affecting our city.

Toolkits providing discussion topics and other civic-minded activity ideas will be provided by Leadership Pittsburgh as the day approaches. But hosts are also encouraged to bring their own ideas to the day’s events.

Interested parties can register to be a host here. Organizers say the ideal party size is eight to 12 people. And one key is inviting people you don’t already know, in order to spark new connections and learn from one another.

“The Big Table allows our region’s residents, leaders and students to become closer knit to the fabric of the larger community in a unique and easy to execute way,” says Dr. Kathy Humphrey, who is senior vice chancellor for engagement and secretary of the board of trustees at the University of Pittsburgh and board chair of Leadership Pittsburgh.

Over the last several years, the concept of The Big Table has served as the basis for community-building events in cities including Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Louisville.

NEXTpittsburgh has held four similar events with local partner Vibrant Pittsburgh, such as our 200 dinners and the popular Welcome, Neighbor! Dinner series. In event surveys, 100 percent of hosts and participants said they would do it again. Some of the topics discussed included:

  • How to manage growth and avoid gentrification.
  • The benefits of rent control.
  • The loss of affordable housing in places like Lawrenceville, and what that means for longstanding black populations.
  • Diversity and the need to make Pittsburgh a more welcoming place for all.

“By taking the time to talk, listen and learn from each other, we build understanding, spread kindness and share ways to positively impact the community we create together,” says Leadership Pittsburgh President and CEO Aradhna Oliphant.

The Jewish Community Center and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh have already agreed to participate, as have local leaders Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

“Events in our region show both the need and capacity for community and caring,” says Fitzgerald. “The Big Table builds on this powerful sense of togetherness and possibility, and gives us a wonderful opportunity to strengthen our region together.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.