Residents talk inclusion, belonging at ‘On The Table’

Syndy Deese, one of nearly 70 attendees participating in the 2019 On The Table event Wednesday, listened to her tablemates at the Winchester Opera House discuss the theme, “Fostering Belonging in our City,” before chiming in herself.

“We’re not a community if not everyone is included,” Deese told her table of seven others.

Deese went on to talk about long-standing narratives in the county, especially about downtown being unsafe among others — narratives which affect people negatively.

Tables also discussed where they felt safe — the Clark County Public Library, College Park Gym, the Winchester-Clark County Farmers Market — and unsafe — Walmart, downtown.

Each table had a facilitator who led the conversation with a prompt. Facilitator Kelly Hutchens asked her table how they can foster inclusion and belonging in their daily lives.

Halee Cunningham, gift planning officer and deputy counsel at BGCF, previously told The Sun the theme follows several other 2019 events focused on inclusion such as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion talks and the “I Was Here” project.

Cunningham told The Sun the theme was also a natural progression from last year’s result, which revealed students didn’t always feel safe at school and they were worried about the future.

The Bluegrass Community Foundation launched its “On the Table” events in Lexington in 2017 and expanded it to Clark County in 2018. Last year’s conversations centered on school violence; it also led to a Clark County Community Foundation grant to Clark County Public Schools for safety initiatives.

At the end of the discussions, attendees filled out a survey which could serve as data for potential grant funds in the community. Marjorie Guyon, an artist for the “I Was Here” project, also attended the talks to gather information and inspiration for phase two of the project which will focus on the stories and people of Clark County.

Every student at Baker Intermediate School and Campbell Junior High School also participated in a table discussion and accompanying activities this week.

CCCF will compile data and release a report about its findings from the conversations later this year.

Blanton Coates, vice chair of the Clark County Community Foundation, said the goal of the 2019 On The Table event was to look at how Clark County can make its schools and community more welcoming and more inclusive.

“We hope these discussions lead you to create your own action plan for small steps that you can do every day to create big changes in our community,” Coates said.