By Nyesha Stone
This fall, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation (GMF) led the On the Table MKE sessions, which were hosted by the community. Various organizations, businesses and prominent people brought different residents from the community together to talk about a variety of topics.
These sessions, or in looser terms gatherings, gave community residents a platform to meet new people and a have a civic conversation, said GMF Marketing and Communication Manager Jeremy Podolski.
On Dec. 14 GMF offered a first look at their On the Table report. Over 150 topics were discussed at the gatherings and GMF grouped those topics into three themes.
Connecting and Collaborating was the most reoccurring topic discussed as the participants enjoyed their meals. They created these gatherings to make everyone feel welcome and what’s more welcoming than food?
Education was the second and Race, Equity and Inclusion was the third theme.
GMF VP of Marketing and Communications Laura Glawe welcomed the audience into GMF’s Washington room, and then she introduced the panel of six.
GMF VP of Civic Engagement Marcus White was the first panelist who began by explaining the results from the report.
“Most people came [to the sessions] because someone else invited them,” said White.
Most of the sessions were held on Oct. 17 with over 5,400 participants from at least 73 zip codes. Majority of the participants from each session said connecting with one another is a key factor for improving our communities. Ninety-six percent of the participants felt more motivated to work with others after attending the sessions.
“I’m surprised to hear people say that in our community we forgot how to talk to people face to face,” said Podolski. “[This] gave people a reason to leave their comfort bubble.”
America SCORES Milwaukee Executive Director Kate Carpenter and panelist started her speech by explaining how she got involved with On the Table.
SCORES is a community outreach program of the Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club. Their focus is offering after-school programming that provides high-quality youth development for the children of the community who need it the most.
She was sent a couple of emails from GMF asking if her organization wanted to host one of GMF’s sessions. Carpenter wasn’t sure if she had a topic to provide to the community residents, but then she came across a program that dealt with teaching coaches how to deal with the youth’s trauma, and she knew that was it. She contacted the Milwaukee Bucks Vice President of Community Relations Alicia Dupies to see if the Bucks wanted to partner with SCORES to host the session.
Dupies immediately agreed and held the session at one of the Buck’s facilities. Carpenter knew to contact Dupies because, this past Aug, Dupies sent Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, and panelist Jamar Wills, and other coaches, out of town to receive training on how to deal with children and their trauma while developing them into better athletes and people.
“Through the training, I learned how to recognize trauma,” said Wills. “We really don’t realize the-day-today issues [kids] face.”
By GMF creating On the Table, people like Dupies, Wills and Carpenter were given the opportunity to meet and connect with one another, while also bringing others in the community together.
Convergence Resource Center (CRC) Chief Financial Officer and Co-Founder Carla McKiver was the fifth panelist to speak.
CRC is a faith-based, community service non-profit that provides support for men and women rebuilding their lives after trauma.
McKiver says CRC was a super host because they hosted three sessions: one during breakfast, then lunch and finally dinner. These sessions showed McKiver non-profits, businesses and anyone trying to impact the community need to come together.
“You have to share your services,” said McKiver. “You can’t just keep it in-house, and this has to be continual.” GMF President and Chief Executive Officer Ellen Gilligan ended the discussion with what’s next.
“People are hungry to come together and make our community stronger,” said Gilligan, and next fall they’ll be leading On the Table once again.