“Big Table” comes to Ben Avon

The idea of getting people together to discuss issues that are of importance to their community, as well as to the country, is not a new one. In May, 1986, for example, millions of Americans joined in “Hands Across America” to bring attention to poverty in our nation.

Fast forward to a few weeks from now, when Leadership Pittsburgh Inc. invites the Pittsburgh region to connect with each other “…in self-organized small groups to have meaningful conversations, over food, to deepen our understanding of shared values as a community of caring residents, businesses and organizations.”

The event, called “Big Table,” will take place in Ben Avon, as well as in many other locations, on Wednesday, April 17, from 6 to 9 p.m. The location will be the Fellowship Hall at Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, 7501 Church Ave.

Joseph Angelelli, of Kilbuck, brought the idea to the Avonworth organizers, with Roger Cranville, also of Kilbuck and assisted by a working committee of seven or eight volunteers, serving as chair for the occasion.

Cranville explains, “Big Table offers an opportunity for neighbors to come together and get to know each other. The hope is that events like this can bring back an era of neighborliness, caring, and people helping each other. Many people feel isolated in an era of social media, which is anything but social.”

Volunteer Len Barcousky added, “The conversation is meant to be free-flowing and open. There will be no agenda other than perhaps a general discussion about living in the North Boroughs and the area schools. Another topic might address the quality of life now and how it might be made better. The general theme will offer an opportunity for neighbors to come together and to get to know each other in a friendly setting.”

Organizers are hoping for and seeking a wide range of people of different ages, interests and backgrounds. Those attending will be encouraged to sit down with folks they don't know or don't know well, eight to a table.

“This area is a friendly one and conversation should flow well without much prompting,” Barcousky said.

Scott Wilwohl, known throughout the region for his fine cooking, has planned food that will be both good and nourishing, with a menu that will include items for vegetarians and for anyone with gluten allergies.

The emphasis for “Big Table” is on conversation and connectedness, with the ultimate goal being simply to get small groups of people together for the best of reasons: to share a meal and to share their thoughts. The hope is that this will be the first of multiple events like this in the area and many other neighborhoods throughout the region.

According to Leadership Pittsburgh, many of these “Big Table” events will take place in homes, but several groups will serve as “super-hosts,” inviting larger groups, with those attending seated at smaller tables. The University of Pittsburgh, the Jewish Community Center, Pittsburgh Public Schools, 412 Food Rescue, Northside Commons Ministries and the Muslim Association of Greater Pittsburgh are among the groups doing larger gatherings.

The goal is simple: getting small groups of people together for the best of reasons: to share a meal and to share their thoughts.

Cost for the dinner is $16 per person, with the deadline for making reservations -- strongly advised -- being April 11. Call (412)734-0107.