‘Inclusive Voices’ format a success at PACE luncheon

by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff Writer

A year ago, the directors of the Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise, hit upon the idea of having a reception and luncheon focused around informal conversations rather than a traditional fundraiser. As one member put it, “It’s not just a fundraiser, it’s a friend raiser.”

Since the first event went so well, they tried it again April 9, and more than 230 community, business and government leaders participated, up from 190 in 2009.


“The idea is to generate dialogue among community leaders and people interested in helping out,” said event co-chair Claudette Lewis. “It’s informal, casual, inclusive, and allows conversation to just happen among a diverse cross section of the city you don’t see at other functions. And it’s working better than traditional fundraisers because people are curious, and they come. Everyone has a chicken dinner—this is different.”

This year’s event at the Omni William Penn Hotel featured a cocktail reception with 31 table hosts, ranging from WTAE-TV meteorologist Demetrius Ivory and Rev. Jimmy Joe Robinson to Common Pleas Judge Kim Berkley Clark and CAPA High School Principal Melissa Pearlman.

Robert Agbede, president and CEO of Chester Engineers, who served as one of the table hosts, said he liked the format.

“This is exciting stuff,” he said. “Sometimes you may think you know what people are about. But then you sit down with them and learn you have similar goals and strategies. So you really get to know people.”

WQED Multimedia president and CEO George Miles agreed.

“It’s exciting to have an opportunity for members of the business community to get together with their peers and talk about who PACE is and why the community should be involved with them.”

PACE grew out of the civil unrest following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in order to support the growth of community-based organizations. The organization is committed to strengthening nonprofits that can assist African-American and economically disadvantaged communities in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to identify and address their needs. Over the years, PACE has provided grant funding to more that 300 such organizations.

“We had seven more table hosts than last year—the interest is high for this unique twist to the traditional business luncheon/fundraiser,” said event co-chair Peggy Harris.


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