Community Voices Heard During On The Table Civic Engagement Events

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By: Marisa Herman Associate Editor

Voices of local residents were heard during On the Table, a national, civic engagement  geared toward bringing communities together to discuss topics and issues important to them.

Locally, the Community Foundation helped coordinate tables throughout Palm Beach and Martin Counties for the first time. The national initiative is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The goal is to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together to enjoy a meal and talk about topics that impact their communities.

In Delray Beach, one table took place downtown at Capital One Cafe. About 40 people gathered over coffee to discuss education.

Kae Johnson Director of Development and Community Relations at the Delray Beach Public Library and Delray Education Board member served as the moderator.

“Everyone had a voice,” she said. “People were really engaged. As moderator, I wanted to make sure everyone had a voice. There’s always louder voices and softer voices, like at a dinner table. Sometimes its the softer voices that have the most profound things to say.”

The group was comprised of people of different ages, backgrounds, lo­ngtime residents and folks who recently moved to town. There was a commissioner pre­sent, business leaders and people from the Haitian community at the table.

Delray Education Coordinator Janet Meeks said the table emphasized and supported the fact that the community understands the importance of literacy.

Ideas that came from their table discussion included finding ways to help parents help their children learn, overcoming barriers with language and communication, the need for a parent resource center in the community and coming up ways to help kids feel empowered in elementary, middle and high school levels.

Meeks said the group agreed they want to explore how to celebrate local heroes as an action item they want to take. They discussed the need for mentorship and a strong relationship with businesses and faith based organizations. They also agreed that the community should work together and not in silos and they would like to meet in an informal setting like this again.