I had an opportunity this last week to participate in a unique community event, called On The Table. Actually, it was part of a much larger regional event coordinated by the Chicago Community Trust, that was designed to bring together a large number of small groups of people to talk about what was important to them in their communities. Looking back, 99 years ago, this was how the Chicago Community Trust was founded – by interested and community minded individuals meeting to talk about how they could make a difference.
Fast forward to today, and the vision of CCT was to again have individuals get together and share their thoughts of what is working well, and perhaps not so well within the whole Chicago land region. All together there were well lover 11,000 individuals represented on Monday night, the 12th of May. Locally in McHenry County, our own Community Foundation sponsored over 20 different “table” discussions, and then other organizations and individuals added several other gatherings as well.
At the table that I had hosted, the discussion was interesting and varied. Our main topic seemed to focus on the concept of volunteerism – how it is a real strength within our county and communities, and has been for some time, although we are beginning to see it start to wane somewhat. The talk was that this seems to be generational in nature – the youth seem to be more focused on volunteering for a given event rather than an ongoing organization or membership commitment. We also discussed the need for job growth, vocational skills and the elderly – which for McHenry County is the 4th fastest growing population sector in the state of Illinois! For other tables that met, transportation was a key topic, state taxes, education and much more were discussed.
The idea of getting a wide range of people together to share their ideas freely is really pretty unique. Often times there is a political driver behind these types of gatherings, which can stifle the conversation. This was not the case here – rather an open dialogue and the opportunity for people to meet others that they would not normally have a chance to talk with. I definitely enjoyed the opportunity to participate, and hope that both the McHenry County Community Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust can use the discussion information gathered to help foster better communities for all of us to share in for the future!