The Legacy Foundation made one thing clear at Wednesday’s On the Table event: every voice in the community matters. In collaboration with Cedar Lake Police Department, Cedar Lake Chamber of Commerce, and Town Hall, the Legacy Foundation hosted the On the Table event to offer an opportunity for the community to sit down together and share a meal. All members of the community were welcome to attend and discuss the issues impacting the community.
“We want to engage the community in conversation,” said David Coulson, Chief of Police of the Cedar Lake Police Department. “We’re a big believer in being a part of the community. It’s important that we hear people’s opinions, concerns, and suggestions.”
Legacy Foundation, the non-profit community foundation for Lake County, is one of ten community foundations across the country that strive to positively transform communities. The event was one of several held in Northwest Indiana, and the attendees were encouraged to discuss the positive work happening in the community, as well as the challenges the community faces.
“On the Table is a countywide initiative that Legacy offers county residents,” said Maranda Fishback, Legacy Foundation’s Community Engagement Coordinator. “We ask them to get together and to talk about their community; to talk about the positives, negatives, strengths, and weaknesses; and we ask them to form solutions on how they can make their community stronger, focus on an issue area, and just have an opportunity for conversation.”
Several organizations across Northwest Indiana attended the On the Table events to help fuel meaningful change in the community.
“Our organization is very enthusiastically participating in this event,” said Joy Heminger, President of Prevent Child Abuse Lake County (PCALC). “It offers the opportunity to initiate a conversation about a topic that affects many children and families right here in Lake County.”
Each table was encouraged to share their ideas openly with one another, inviting them to discuss their personal experiences in Northwest Indiana. The room buzzed with conversation on various community happenings and issues.
Dawn Buckley, Executive Director of the Down Syndrome Association of Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland, shared her excitement for joining the event.
“We at the DSA are excited to open up the conversation and work together to solve the roadblocks we have here in Northwest Indiana,” said Buckley.
Like all attendees, Buckley was invited to share her input on potential areas of improvement that her organization had noticed.
“We have been working on improving job programming and transportation accessibility for our members of the community with a disability and have not been able to find quality programming,” said Buckley. “These are two major issues in Northwest Indiana that so many will encounter after high school.”
In addition to organizations, local residents and students of the community were also encouraged to attend the event. Steel City Academy of Gary welcomed the occasion.
“We are excited to provide our students the opportunity to use their voices to identify their role in strengthening our community,” said Katie Kirley, Executive Director and Principal at Steel City Academy. “As a school that participated last year, we saw how empowering it was for our students to brainstorm solutions to make our city better for our kids.”
The event also provided a chance for residents to give feedback to Legacy Foundation. The feedback will be used to aid in future grantmaking and programming decisions by Legacy Foundation, as well as shared with the co-hosts and with the public to create a basis for meaningful change.
“There has been a very good response,” said Coulson. “There is a lot of growth in this community, so input and inclusion are important.”
The event marked the second annual series of On the Table events hosted by the Cedar Lake Police Department, Chamber of Commerce, and Town Hall. Attendees from last year commented how impactful conversations were on improving the community.
“From last year’s conversation, our students started Steel City Landscapers, a student-led business determined to beautify Gary while providing job opportunities for our youth,” said Kirley.
In addition to holding On the Table events, Legacy Foundation provides scholarships for high school and college students, serves as a resource for non-profits through grant opportunities and professional development, and acts as a resource for donors who want to establish funds and focus on areas that they care most about.
“So many people don’t just talk these days,” said Fishback, “so this is an excellent platform for collaborations to form and for projects to come out.”
For more information on Legacy Foundation, visit http://legacyfdn.org/.