On the Table 2014 and the Chicago Community Trust

By: Cassie Moore, Program Officer at the Niagara Foundation

On Monday, May 12th throughout the Chicagoland area, one thousand groups of people will meet around tables to answer the question, “How do we make our city, our community, a better place?”

The Chicago Community Trust, in celebration of their 99th anniversary, is presenting the event: On the Table, in which volunteers register to host small gatherings for a one-day event.

On the Table will bring Chicagoans together to discuss and share ideas on how to make Chicago better city. Whether it’s over breakfast, coffee, a picnic, dinner, or dessert, it doesn’t matter. Throughout the day on May 12th, small communities throughout the Chicagoland area will be meeting to discuss a common goal. The Trust will then send out surveys to record all the topics and ideas discussed. This data set will give a voice to Chicagoans and provide practical projects that could potentially be funded by the Trust.

I was able to visit The Chicago Community Trust offices a few days ago to get an exclusive of On the Table by interviewing Maritza Bandera, a consultant at the Trust. I sat down with her to hear about what makes this program unique.

Coming off the last few years of large annual events celebrating its upcoming 100th anniversary in 2015, the Trust wanted to do something different this year. In the past they had focused on community leaders, but with On the Table, anyone can be involved and have their voice heard.

The intention is that all communities in Chicago are represented on May 12th. Some tables will be part of larger events put on specifically to reach often overlooked communities. Mealtime conversations will take place at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Southwest Chicago PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter) and the Night Ministry. The Trust will also host 300 students at the Chicago Cultural Center to engage the city’s youth by partnering with the Chicago Public Schools, Mikva Challenge, City Year and Chicago Cares.

Niagara Foundation is delighted to be a part of On the Table. We’ve committed to finding voices from out network of friends to host and add to these discussions the unique voice of the interfaith community.

On the Table is not just a platform for sharing concerns, but also a means for responding to them. On June 18th, The Chicago Community Trust’s president and ceo, Terry Mazany will share preliminary findings at his “State of the Community” address. A major goal of this initiative is not only to give a platform for the communities of Chicago to be heard, but to encourage citizens to take initiative to be engaged in improving their community.

Having a chance to chat with Maritza personally about On the Table made me realize just how unique this type of program is. The Trust is engaging many organizations like Niagara Foundation to make sure all communities of Chicago are being heard. It is important to them and it is important to us, that your voice is heard.

How you can get involved:

If you would like to participate as a host, please go to the website http://www.onthetable2014.com/ to register. When you fill out the online form, be sure to register your table under “NiagaraTent”.

You can either have a table filled with family/friends or request the Trust place other Chicagoans in your community to your group. Niagara is here to help you fill your table with individual participants if you are interested in diverse interfaith voices at your enlivened discussion. We have made hosting easier by providing both an On the Table Host Toolkit and an Abraham’s Tent Guide as a resource for getting the conversation started at your table, also found on the website.

The views and opinions expressed on The Falls are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Niagara Foundation, its staff, other authors, members, partners, or sponsors.