Organizations, nonprofits and concerned citizens hosted discussions at On The Table Macon on Wednesday ranging in topics from the environment to diversity to civil rights, and attendees are encouraged to take action and keep the conversation going.
The Community Foundation of Central Georgia organized the event for the second year with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
“I thought it was a remarkable day. ...There was so much energy,” said Kathryn Dennis, president of the CFCG. “The community really came together.”
CFCG estimates more than 5,000 people attended On The Table with more than 475 conversations hosted around Macon, Dennis said.
Unsure of what to do after a conversation? There are four steps to take next:
- Take the survey: The deadline to fill out a survey is Nov. 13, and there is also a youth survey available at the On The Table website.
- Take action: Dennis said the point of On The Table is to inspire action in the community and foster ideas for how to make Macon a better place to live.
- Apply for grants: Applications will be released soon.
- Keep the conversation going: Stay in touch with the people who were around your table and keep having conversations throughout the year, Dennis said.
Nancy Cleveland, communications and development associate at the CFCG, said people were so excited about On The Table this year that the CFCG should make the event a holiday.
“I think we had more participation from different organizations and more partnerships,” she said.
Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us) hosted five tables at Congregation Sha’arey Israel on First Street, and more than 40 people discussed issues related to the organization’s core principles.
Marie Pease Lewis, a member of Georgia Women who led a discussion about the environment, said her table discussed recycling, food waste in schools and littering.
“I thought it went really well,” she said. “I hope that some action will come out of this.”
Jennifer Woodson, professor of business at Gordon State College, attended the same table as Lewis, and she said hearing other people’s opinions about the issues helped her change her own.
“You had folks from all different aspects of different parts of Bibb County, different jobs, different backgrounds,” she said. “Everybody had different opinions from where they come from and what would work and what wouldn’t work.”
Lynn Snyder, a member of the Steering Committee for Georgia Women, said the organization participated in On The Table last year, which was the first year of the event, but she said the organization wanted to discuss topics that are directly related to their core principles, which deal with civil liberties, elections, environmental issues, affordable healthcare and education.
Snyder said her table discussed affordable healthcare and specifically talked about indigent care.
“I think it was very positive. We came up with some good ideas and actually want to get together again and talk about some more strategies,” she said.
Middle Georgia Regional Library hosted 15 table discussions at their multiple locations in Macon-Bibb County.
One of the discussions focused on diversity in children’s literature and was led by Shane Adams, a library assistant.
Adams said she hoped to broaden people’s perspectives about what diversity means and particularly what it means in terms of the books they keep in the library.
“Macon isn’t just one type of person,” she said. “Diversity is making sure every kid can look at a book and be like, ‘I can do this. I can read this. This book is for me.’”
Tracey Muff, program coordinator of the Before and After School Program at Bibb County Schools, said the conversation opened her eyes to how diversity means more than culture and religion.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and being exposed to diversity in a way that I had not thought of initially.”
Adams said diversity can be a difficult topic to navigate, but resulted in productive discussion.
“Everyone was active. They gave good points. No one fought. They didn’t talk over each other. They were very respectful of other points of view,” she said. “We even built connections of things that we can do with each other later on.”