Columbia – On Tuesday, Oct. 22, residents from Richland and Lexington counties are encouraged to participate in the second annual On the Table, a one-day opportunity to gather around a table, share a meal, and discuss what’s great about our community and how we can make it even better — more sustainable, just, safe, strong and vibrant.
Powered by Central Carolina Community Foundation, the Midlands’ center for philanthropy, On the Table is an opportunity for people from all walks of life, ages, and backgrounds to come together and participate in conversations about creating a more generous, vibrant, and engaged community. The initiative is generously funded by the Knight Foundation and First Citizens Bank.
More than 40 conversations will be open to the public and will take place throughout the day, including a breakfast conversation at 8:00 am at Tiffany’s Sweets, Eats & Meeting Place; a lunch conversation with COLA Gives and Historic Columbia at 11:30 a.m. at Seibels House & Gardens; and an evening conversation over pizza at 6:30 p.m. at the Irmo Branch Library. Those interested in joining public conversations taking place across the Midlands can register at www.onthetablecola.org.
“When we come together as a community to listen to and learn from each other, we have the power to impact neighborhoods, communities, and lives. This is what On the Table is all about,” says JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of Central Carolina Community Foundation. “We know big ideas can spring from small conversations and that people invest in what they help create. That’s why we want you to host or join a table.”
New this year, a survey specifically for youth On the Table participants will be distributed in an effort to capture the distinctive views of the generations that will shape the future of our region. Young adults, youth-serving organizations and schools interested in hosting or participating in a conversation should contact [email protected].
Real Conversations, Real Community Impact
In its inaugural year, On the Table sparked hundreds of conversations and ideas across the region. The discussions that took place throughout the day resulted in relationships and projects that are still thriving.
In 2018, Cola Town Bike Collective, One Columbia and other community partners hosted a public pot-luck meal under the overpass on Elmwood Ave. to discuss connectivity and mobility.
“On the Table served as a first touchpoint that led to lasting conversations and relationships,” says Scott Nuelken, president and chair of Cola Town Bike Collective. “The conversation was one day, but the connections continued months after.”
The groups’ event showcased the ability for the community to convene in a unique and meaningful way with fairly low cost and effort.
“Through facilitating face-to-face interactions over a meal, diverse communities were able to come together with people they had never met and take part in vital discussions,” says Lee Snelgrove, executive director of One Columbia. “The conversations weren’t online and weren’t with groups we were already a part of — it was incredibly refreshing. We saw an impact not only in the people who participated but also through increased awareness of public spaces.”
Cola Town Bike Collective, a community-focused group that works to further inclusivity, was also a Beyond the Table mini-grant recipient.
“The Beyond the Table mini-grant is allowing us to turn our location on Elmwood into a welcoming and vibrant neighborhood event space,” says Nuelken. “It’s all about community — creating a place to spend time and share with one another.”
On the Table By the Numbers
In 2018, 1,500 individuals participated in On the Table and 89 percent said they were likely to take specific action on an issue discussed. Last year, the Community Foundation awarded $20,000 to 11 local nonprofits for Beyond the Table mini-grants — funding projects and actionable ideas that spurred from On the Table conversations.
This year, the Foundation is again awarding Beyond the Table mini-grants. Nonprofit organizations and individuals with a fiscal sponsorship can apply for grants up to $2,000 for a project that addresses one of the issues identified as a community priority through the 2018 On the Table report. Applications will open on October 22. Information about the grants can be found at www.onthetablecola.org.
It’s Not too Late to Become a Host
For little or no cost, tables can be hosted by anyone and any organization — individuals, families, businesses, nonprofits, places of workship, and others. Hosts determine the location and time for their gathering and can choose to invite specific guests or open their table to the public.
Food can be provided by the host or guests can purchase their food, contribute to a potluck, or bring their own. Panera Bread is supporting conversations at its Lexington and Richland County locations. The restaurant is offering a 10 percent catering discount as well as waiving the setup and delivery fee for all hosts.
Hosts can register at www.onthetablecola.org.
Rooted in a National Initiative
On the Table, Powered by Central Carolina Community Foundation conversations are part of a national initiative funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. On the Table replicates an annual civic engagement initiative of the same name developed by The Chicago Community Trust in 2014. Support for On the Table advances Knight Foundation’s work to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of civic engagement. Knight Foundation believes that successful communities are equitable, inclusive and participatory.
For more information or to sign up to host, visit www.onthetablecola.org or call 803.254.5601.