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Taking Action Through On the Table: How Beyond the Table Grants Invest for Impact

Local nonprofits are making a difference throughout the Midlands with the support of Beyond the Table grants.

On the Table, hosted by Central Carolina Community Foundation, brings community members together to build personal relationships, share ideas and inspire collaborative action. To assist in making ideas from conversations a reality, On the Table participants can apply for Beyond the Table grants, after attending community conversations.

One organization that received a Beyond the Table grant in 2020 was Webgyrlz Code. The organization’s work is centered around teaching web and app development, introduction to game development and animation. “We like to say that we give girls and women superpowers through computer science,” said Shambi Broome, executive director of Webyrlz Code.

Broome hosted a virtual On the Table conversation to discuss inequalities in educational resources across the Midlands, which were particularly highlighted during the pandemic with virtual learning. Broome was interested in brainstorming ways to bridge this gap.

“There was this giant spotlight on the inequalities of kids who are now having to do virtual learning, and so that was when I said, ‘What can we do for students?’ because everything’s not fair. Even in the Midlands, every school district does not have the same resources to give their students at home,” Broome said.

These questions and conversations led to the idea of “Virtual Hero Kits” and inspired Webgyrlz Code to apply for a Beyond the Table grant to take action in securing the materials for the kits. The kits included the materials needed for students to learn effectively from home and were given to families with children who were struggling with online learning.

Another organization that participated in On the Table and received a Beyond the Table grant in 2020 was COLA Gives.

On the Table led so many different relevant [conversation] topics,” said Jackie Griffin, president of COLA Gives. “We felt that the topics were so good that one day of conversation wasn’t going to be enough, not to really address the problems and come up with concrete solutions.”

With assistance from a Beyond the Table grant, COLA Gives started the Community Youth Force to “introduce the art of philanthropy” to children. The Community Youth Force is made up of 20 third through 10th-grade students learning about a variety of topics including self-awareness, social justice, financial planning, thoughtful philanthropy and the meaning of community.

On the Table was totally responsible for this new concept of outreach by youth to try and address those issues that kids need to be aware of and address as well,” says Griffin. “Let’s face it, long-term, if they are aware of it now, when they get to be young adults, they’ll be able to understand the need for organized philanthropy.”

To further build connections and encourage residents to take action in their respective communities, the Community Foundation will again host On the Table conversations and accept applications for Beyond the Table grants. This year, the Community Foundation will host three solution-focused, virtual conversations that include key connectors and community members from Richland, Lexington and Sumter Counties, concentrating on each community’s assets and strengths and thinking collaboratively about solutions. Interested residents can register at www.OnTheTableCola.org.

County-specific conversations are scheduled for:

  • Richland: Tuesday, March 8 at noon
  • Lexington: Wednesday, March 9 at noon
  • Sumter: Thursday, March 10 at noon

The Community Foundation also encourages residents of the Midlands to join together for their own conversations. Midlands residents seeking to gather for their own solution-focused conversation can use On the Table conversation guides and toolkits provided by the Community Foundation and available at www.OnTheTableCola.org. Conversation guides include information and guided questions in the areas of education, race relations, civic engagement, poverty, food insecurity and social justice — areas of opportunity that were identified in previous years’ On the Table conversations.

On the Table community conversations are a great way to inspire plans for change that can be assisted through Beyond the Table grant opportunities. After conversations are complete, five Beyond the Table mini-grants totaling $20,000 are available for Midlands nonprofit organizations in collaboration with Midlands residents seeking to take action in their respective communities. Beyond the Table grants will fund projects addressing a community need, based on a conversation held among at least 4 or more community members. Applications open on March 1 and close on March 31. Information about the grants can be found at www.OnTheTableCola.org.

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