On The Table is expanding to another Middle Georgia city — with more grant funding available

The Community Foundation of Central Georgia and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will offer $55,000 in grants to people who participate in On The Table conversations in Middle Georgia this year.

On the Table Macon will become On The Table Macon and Milledgeville as the event will include the neighboring city, and thousands will gather in Middle Georgia to discuss community issues and find solutions, according to a news release.

Nancy Cleveland, communications and development associate at the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, said Twin Lakes Library System hosted table conversations last year but wanted to expand their reach.

“They reached out to us this year to kind of revamp the effort to make it bigger and better since they saw the success of On The Table Macon,” she said.

She said the Community Foundation of Central Georgia helped them apply for a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund for Milledgeville to sponsor this year’s event.

The Conversation to Action Mini-Grant money will be divided into $40,000 for initiatives in Macon and $15,000 for initiatives in Milledgeville, according to the release. On The Table is a national initiative funded by the Knight Foundation.

The Community Foundation of Central Georgia awarded $15,000 in grants after On The Table Macon last year.

Participants at On The Table Macon 2018 applied for the grants to fund project ideas that originated from conversations at the table. The money funded projects that paired families in need with people who could offer assistance to projects that provided transportation to grocery stores.

“We’re eager to build on this momentum in Macon and Milledgeville, bringing people together, across backgrounds and beliefs, to break bread, build bridges, and brainstorm ideas to strengthen our community,” said Lynn Murphey, Knight Foundation program director for Macon, in the release.

More than 5,000 people gathered around more than 600 tables at On The Table 2018, and people are invited to host or join a conversation on Oct. 30, according to the release.

“On the Table encourages collaboration and action by residents who come together to talk about what makes our communities great and what will make them even better,” said Kathryn Dennis, president of the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, in the release.

Cleveland said they are in the host recruitment stage of preparing for On The Table, but plan to start releasing tables for people to sign up to attend in early October.

People who would like to host a table can choose any topic for discussion, but the Community Foundation of Central Georgia has specific conversation prompts for the five top issues for adults and youth participants from the survey taken after last year’s On The Table Macon.

The top five issues for adults were crime, poverty, economic development, education and race relations, and the top five issues for youth participants were violence, drug use, bullying, hungry families and after school activities, according to the report summaries.

Cleveland said they are trying to expand their reach with the survey by doing both a paper survey and an online survey, and her goal this year is to double the amount of participation in the conversations and in the survey.

“The more people who take the survey and get their voices heard, the more of an impact we can see on the decision making that people are doing throughout the city,” Cleveland said.