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Could be the biggest ever welcome dinner in Pittsburgh

It started, as most things do, with a compelling story. This one, unfortunately, was too sad.

In a meeting to discuss something altogether different, Melanie Harrington of Vibrant Pittsburgh first told a story about a family of color that recently left town because they didn't feel welcome.

The woman had been recruited for a very good job here. And they found a good job for her husband, too, not an easy thing. But their daughter wasn't happy in school which of course meant stress for the parents.

When the parents threw a birthday party to help the young girl make friends, one of the moms who brought her child reacted in surprise to who the birthday girl was. She thought it was another child of the same first name in the class. And so she left with her child. Repeat: they left.

Long story short: the family did not feel welcome and they returned to their former city.

What a loss. If only, we said, they had met other, more welcoming people. If only others knew what was going on in order to help them.

If only.

Knowing how many people in town work hard to bring good talent here, the discussion turned to what could be done to prevent a situation like this. It went from if only to what if...?

And it became more like this:

What if...

Pittsburgh threw a large dinner party for newcomers hosted by families all over Pittsburgh?. Remember those impressive home dinners for the One Young World participants that took place all on one night? Families throughout Pittsburgh opened their homes to a large group of young international visitors, who were wowed by the concept and the hospitality. Global Pittsburgh does these kind of dinners, too, relying on hosts throughout Pittsburgh to welcome international visitors for dinner. It's often mentioned as the visitors' favorite activity while they're here. (We've hosted dinners for years and enjoyed every single one.)

Same idea, different dinner attendees.

Our next step was looping in Steve Sokol of the World Affairs Council who had orchestrated the home dinners during One Young World and who, together with Melanie, had started the Dine Arounds, smaller dinners at homes and local restaurants for newcomers that Vibrant Pittsburgh does on an every other month basis. Adriana from Vibrant Pittsburgh kept us all straight as she organized meetings and conference calls and kept us to a timeline.

The result? We'll find out Saturday, April 20th when the first round of dinners are scheduled. Right now we're looking for hosts, people who can invite at least 10 people to their home--some newcomers, along with some friends and community leaders you know who can help welcome and connect these newcomers.

We're all in.

In case you're wondering, this project isn't funded in any way. It's just an idea that the community will have to embrace to get off the ground. So hosting means springing for dinner and drinks, although you can be creative. One host wants to do a potluck dinner with everyone bringing something. Another is opting for a casual buffet. And yet another wants to throw a sit down dinner. It all works. The point is conversations and meeting other people and showing that Pittsburgh can indeed be a warm and welcoming city.

What matters the most is to welcome these new residents – particularly those whose backgrounds, from ethnicity and race to sexual orientation and faith-- might be different from your own.

What matters is to show newcomers and others who may be contemplating a move to the region that our community really cares and wants to connect with them in a way that hasn't been done before. If it works, we'll do more.

Want to help? Fill out this form please and let us know you're willing to host.

Are you a newcomer who wants to attend a dinner? Contact us here.

And stay tuned to Pop City for more info and coverage.

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