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Local organizers plan potluck to benefit typhoon victims in Philippines

"Imagine a Pittsburgh where 90 percent of our city is decimated and everyone's displaced."

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For those looking to give something back this holiday season, Leah Lizarondo and Caitlin Grater-Kapoor want you to consider their potluck the perfect place to start. It's a chance to demonstrate generosity abroad while enjoying a generous helping of food cooked up here at home.

On Dec. 10, Lizarondo, author of the blog The Brazen Kitchen, and Grater-Kapoor, co-organizer for The Pittsburgh Whole Food Nutrition Meet Up group, are hosting "The Great Pittsburgh Potluck for the Philippines" at Marty's Market (2301 Smallman St., Strip District). The effort will benefit aid efforts in the Philippines, which on November 9 was ravaged by super-typhoon Haiyan — one of the most powerful storms ever recorded.

In true potluck fashion, guests are invited to bring a dish along with a $10 suggested donation, or just come and eat with a $20 suggested donation. The organizers, who call themselves "staunch advocates for food, health and access," are donating all of the proceeds directly to the World Food Programme and its relief efforts.

For Lizarondo, who grew up in the nation's capital, Manila, "this is a cause very, very close to my heart." When Grater-Kapoor suggested they turn the monthly meet-up into a fundraiser, Lizarondo thought the idea "genius."

To give Pittsburghers some idea of the devastation caused by Haiyan, Lizarondo explains, "Pittsburgh is roughly 75 percent the size of Tacloban — the hardest-hit area — and reports say that 90 percent of the buildings there were destroyed or damaged. Imagine a Pittsburgh where 90 percent of our city is decimated and everyone's displaced. It is hard." 

But what the organizers can imagine is "the largest potluck Pittsburgh has ever had." To Lizarondo, a potluck is all about getting together, giving and sharing. "That is what we wanted this event to reflect."

The storm's impact "is personal to me. ... I was very much in a state of shock," Lizarondo adds. But, motivated by Grater-Kapoor and an outpouring of support, Lizarondo is looking forward to breaking bread at Tuesday's event.

"Pittsburgh is such a warm city," she says. "I'm going to bring something Filipino, definitely!"

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