Powered by Margaret Krauss for NEXTpittsburgh.

Steve Sokol and Melanie Harrington moved to Pittsburgh at about the same time; they both relocated for work: both taking the helm at nonprofits, the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh and Vibrant Pittsburgh, respectively; and they both lived downtown. They got to be friends. And as new friends often do, they talked about their situation—new city, new jobs, far-flung friends and families. So they hatched a social plan: a way to meet people without having to wear a nametag or utter those five dirty words.

You know the ones. “So…what do you do?”

The process of settling in to a new city can be confusing and lonely, but with a few friends, it’s less of a chore. Sokol and Harrington aimed to get brand new Pittsburghers and old hands together over food and drink to fast-track creating personal networks.

“It was a way of helping newcomers meet other people beyond people they were meeting through their jobs,” says Sokol.

Thus was born the Dine Around, of which the third installment returning Saturday, Oct. 25. Guests may sign up here.

The first dine around was held in Sokol’s apartment in the fall of 2010. The concept was a hit, but its existence was sustained, in part, by a surprising realization: many of those first Dine Around participants found Pittsburgh to be friendly, but not particularly welcoming.

Now, if you’ve been keeping track of the city’s seemingly inexhaustible list of accolades, it may be news to you that Pittsburgh isn’t welcoming: we’re livable, we’re beautiful, we’re happy. Don’t we throw our arms open to one and all?

Demeshia Seals, Executive Vice President, COO of the Massaro Construction Group and a former Dine Around attendee, says the disconnect between friendly and welcoming is due in part to the rooted nature of Pittsburghers.

“In other cities that I’ve lived, Baltimore or D.C., there are very large transient populations, no one’s really from there,” she says. “Here, everybody is from here. So it’s hard to appreciate that people who aren’t from here don’t have an extended network of people they can take for granted.”

Sokol agrees. Many Pittsburghers have a personal network built over a lifetime that makes them feel happy and fulfilled, so they don’t necessarily need to make new friends.

“It’s not a negative,” he says. “It’s just that that new person has a hard time eking out a little bit of space in a Pittsburgher’s life.”

To help newcomers find a foothold is important on an individual level, but is also crucial to the city’s well being. Pittsburgh’s demographics are shifting. While we used to be the second oldest places in the United States, in 10 to 15 years we’re on track to be one of the youngest. We’re going to need to build our workforce and Sokol says Dine Arounds could be one piece of attracting and retaining that talent.

“There are other great places to live or stay, so maybe we need to do something a little bit extra as a city to say ‘Come here and stay,’” he says. “Here is a community-led initiative that is trying to make Pittsburgh present itself in the best possible way, and it could really change the way you view the city that’s now home.”

So the concept of the Dine Around was expanded, with the help of others including the publisher of NEXTpittsburgh, Tracy Certo, who helped to organize the new iteration. This version would be based on the home dinners done during One Young World, when all the attendees to the international conference were welcomed into homes of Pittsburghers for dinner.

Last year’s two citywide Dine Around events (also known as welcome dinners in some circles) welcomed more than 200 people to 20 separate dinners. Hosts, who pay their own costs, can structure dinner in any way they like, keeping in mind that the idea is to foster good conversation and an atmosphere that sets people of all different backgrounds at ease.

If that sounds daunting, Vibrant Pittsburgh’s Welcome Center and Outreach Assistant says not to worry.

“It’s just people coming together and sharing food,” says Emily Ferri. “It’s a dinner party where you might not know anyone.” In a post-event survey, 100% of the hosts said they would do it again and 100% of the guests said they would attend another.

Brianna and Nathan Ivey took the plunge into a blind dinner party during the first citywide event in April 2013, a month after they’d moved to Pittsburgh from Orlando, Florida. Brianna says their Dine Around experience made them excited to be in the city.

“People can’t tell you enough good about Pittsburgh. It was so fun to feel immediately a part of it.”

Nathan agreed.

“You could see the pride the hosts took in their city and that kicked it off for us. We wanted to make sure we became invested, too.”

This year, all guests are invited to convene after dinner for a dessert reception sponsored by the Dignity and Respect Campaign of Greater Pittsburgh.

Guests can sign up here.

Zersha Munir

Where can you find 24,886 job listings for the Pittsburgh region — all in one place?, that’s where! Each night our powerful job aggregator scrapes more than 900 corporate websites and job search engines for listings across the 10-county Pittsburgh region. So it’s no longer necessary to go to Monster, then Career Builder, then US Jobs and on and on. We bring it all to you in one convenient place.

Here are few of the jobs you’ll find on the site right now:

Electronic Assembler at MSA

Asphalt Paving Equipment Field Mechanic at PJ Dick

Assistant Professor of Physics at Washington & Jefferson College

Environmental Health & Safety Coordinator at Alcoa

Senior Administrative Assistant at Federated Investors

Bookmark our Work page to check back regularly for more career opportunities. You can also sign up for our monthly eNewsletter, or follow us by RSS feed, FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn or our other social media channels.

Zersha Munir

It’s the perfect time to explore some of the Pittsburgh region’s great recreational amenities. What better way to quickly cover as many of Pittsburgh’s wilderness trails as possible than by bike?  Our Neighbor Gary Stout can help you get out and on your way. Whether you’re buying, renting, or your wheels need some TLC as you make your way along the Great Allegheny Passage, the Stout family’s shop, Bikes Unlimited in Connellsville, Fayette County is worth a stop. Just 23 miles from Ohiopyle, Bikes Unlimited is part of the revival of trail towns in southwestern Pennsylvania. 

And of course, Gary is one of our Neighbors, individuals who help to extend the welcome beyond hello to newcomers, boomerangers and native Pittsburghers alike. You can check out his profile here; take the “Find Yourself in Pittsburgh!” quiz to see which Neighbors share your interests or careers; and then ping them via their LinkedIn profiles (linked on their profile page).

And if it’s a career change you’re contemplating, be sure to check out our powerful job search engine. It combs more than 900 websites and job boards (including Monster, Career Builder and Craigslist) nightly to let you access the more than 20,000 jobs available now.

Zersha Munir

On a July Sunday thousands of Pittsburghers biked, walked and danced through downtown streets as part of OpenStreetsPGH, which roped off the area between Market Square and the Roberto Clemente Bridge for pedestrian use only.

Part of the 100-city-wide Ciclovia movement, OpenStreetsPGH transformed streets into temporary auto-free zones venues where community members can socialize through walking, bicycling, dancing and playing.

The goal of the free event was to form relationships among community members while allowing residents to see the area in a new way. “Unlike other events and festivals, OpenStreetsPGH is not about entertainment, it’s about being active,” says Bike Pittsburgh Communications Manager Ngani Ndimbie. “Rather than providing performances, we’re providing a space. This event was made by communities. We’ll have achieved our goals when people come out in the streets and meet their neighbors.”

Bike Pittsburgh was one of many partners endorsing this event, alongside The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, cityLAB, Pittsburgh Inline Skate Club, Let’s Move Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh.

Though this was the first OpenStreets event in Pittsburgh, Ndimbie says, “OpenStreets 2014 is a snapshot of what is to come in 2015.” The group plans to expand, forming advanced partnerships with community groups Neighbors In the Strip and Lawrenceville United.

Learn more about the event here.


Lou Corsaro

Shane Set-R“The Chair,” a documentary series executive produced by Point Park University, will air its first episode Sept. 6 on the STARZ channel.

The 10-episode series, filmed in Pittsburgh, follows two up-and-coming directors, Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci, as they compete to make two separate feature films from the same script. “The Chair” will document the creation, marketing and theatrical release of both adaptations, which will also air on STARZ. Both directors have the same budget and, through multiplatform voting, the audience will determine which director will be awarded $250,000.

More than 100 Point Park students and alumni from a variety of majors supported the TV series and two feature films as interns, employees, and through class projects.  Additionally, production offices were located on Point Park University’s campus in downtown Pittsburgh.

“Point Park University is proud to act as an economic driver and incubator for original works of entertainment that can help boost the local economy, while also giving students and alumni an outlet for developing the kind of experience they need to thrive in the real world,” said University President Paul Hennigan.

“The Chair” was created by producer Chris Moore, who partnered with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon on HBO’s “Project Greenlight.” For “The Chair,” he partnered with Green Tree native Zachary Quinto and his production company, Before The Door Pictures.

“Working in Pittsburgh with the support of Point Park University was an invaluable component in creating this show and these two films,” said Josh Shader, who produced the two films.

“The Chair” chronicles Los Angeles filmmakers Shane Dawson and Anna Martemucci as they make their feature films, also shot in Pittsburgh, from a script by Dan Schoffer. The film is a coming-of-age comedy about a group of former high school classmates who return home from college for Thanksgiving.

View the trailer for Martemucci’s “Hollidaysburg,” the trailer for Shane Dawson’s “Not Cool,” and watch a preview of “The Chair.”

Zersha Munir

There are 23,546 open jobs in the Pittsburgh region and now you have access to them — all in one place! pulls from more than 900 corporate websites and job search engines for listings across the 10-county Pittsburgh region, and then highlights the most recent jobs with significant companies. It’s no longer necessary to go through a string of job opportunity sites; we bring it all to you in one convenient place.

Here are few of the jobs you’ll find on the site right now:

EAM Coordinator at EQT Corporation

Technical Writer at Development Dimensions International

Mechanical Engineer at MSA

Project Estimator at Mitsubishi Electric Power Products

Adjunct Clinical Nursing Faculty at Duquesne University

Bookmark our Work page to check back regularly for more career opportunities. You can also sign up for our monthly eNewsletter, or follow us by RSS feed, FacebookTwitter, LinkedIn or our other social media channels.