Last week, I participated in three conversations sprouting from the Community Foundation’s “On the Table” initiative.
As explained on their website, “On a single day, Tuesday, November 7, residents of Columbus and the surrounding areas are invited to be part of this exciting initiative to discuss not only what’s great about our community, but also ways to make it even better — more sustainable, just, safe, strong and vibrant.” In the morning, I sat at a picnic style breakfast with members of the Young Professionals. At lunchtime, I shared a meal with faculty, staff, students, and community members at Columbus State University. And at dinner, I was one of more than a hundred people breaking bread at St. Thomas Episcopal Church.
On the whole, it was an excellent experience. I would guess that the majority of residents that participated in this initiative would agree. Very few concrete ideas about how to better the city came from my sessions, but lots of connections and possibilities arose. I am aware of a handful more service projects and non profits in the area and now have a relationship with folks who regularly participate. That is time well spent. Now to take action.
That is part of why I bring up On the Table in my column. Over the course of the day, it became quite clear that there are a huge number of Columbus residents volunteering their time and resources to serve their neighbors. But there is also a sizeable amount of redundancy and inefficiency that stems from a lack of inter communication between groups. At dinner, one of my tablemates suggested I ask any readers of this column to email me with their volunteer group’s information so that I can compile an online database.
Tell me what your group is called, how you can be reached, where and when you meet, and where, when, who and how you serve. If we have a single digital library with this information, we should find the areas of redundancy in efforts more quickly, make inroads to collaborate with one another, and allow residents who want to get involved to find the groups that best suit them.
Why does this matter? Consider a story one of my lunch tablemates shared. He volunteers to serve meals at Open Door Community House. Recently, he served a taco dinner and those who were being served were ecstatic. “Finally something other than spaghetti!” This is a bit funny, but the truth was that the past three nights, three different groups had come to serve spaghetti dinner. They didn’t likely know that they were duplicating menus or that those eating minded, but they ought to have known. What good is our effort to serve if it isn’t really touching those we are serving in the ways we desire?
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will begin the process of compiling a digital bank with local service projects. I’m encouraged by my fellow community members and excited about our future as a city!
Natalia Naman Temesgen is an independent contractor. Contact her at email@example.com.