For many, gathering around the Thanksgiving Table is an annual tradition and time to acknowledge our many blessings. Those blessings are clearly represented in the people at the Thanksgiving Table. For Bonnie and me, most years it is family around the Table. Other years, when miles separate us from family, we gather with friends. Sometimes it is a Thanksgiving Table at the church with many others.
The Thanksgiving Table is our network of caring, loving, and supporting persons in our lives. Through the years, Bonnie and I have been blessed with so many loved ones. We know that when we are in a time of need, we can call on any one of a number of people. Perhaps it is a time of needing an opinion or advise on a life matter or even a fix-it project at home. Sometimes the support needed is emotional because of grief or troubled times. In our young adult years, we reached out to our Thanksgiving Table network for financial needs when we couldn’t quite make ends meet.
We have an extensive Thanksgiving Table network of support. Most persons reading this, also have such a Table. For most, we were first given it through our families and it then expanded to include friends, colleagues, co-workers, and of course, our friends in the church.
There are persons who do not know the blessing of such a Thanksgiving Table network. Youngsters who have needed to be removed from unhealthy and dysfunctional family situations have not had the head start of creating such a care network. Many children in foster families have had very positive experiences, being blessed with a second chance at family. Then, there are youth who have had so many foster families that they have not bonded into lasting relationships and so they have not been able to experience nor create the Thanksgiving Table of a caring network.
Our North District United Methodist Social Ministries has partnered with Open Table and Step Up (of Clark County Social Services) to offer young adults “aging out” of foster care, a “Thanksgiving Table” in which to form a network of care. These young adults are no longer in the care of a foster family and are trying to take those challenging steps into independence.
What is Open Table? Open Table is a process and practice of forming a network of care, a supportive community — called Tables — that transform the table members’ vocational and life experiences into tools the young adult stepping out of foster care can use to develop and achieve their life goals. Our UMSM Tables meet weekly for one year to work alongside the young adult who seeks such a team.
How much does it cost? The United Methodist Social Ministries of the North District has covered the Open Table licensing fee. Additionally, each Table member is asked to contribute $IO a month for 12 months ($120). If that fee is more than the Table member can manage, UMSM may scholarship this fee.
Is there Training for Table members? Before a Table is launched, extensive training is provided to the members. This six-session training is through Open Table University (an online Google Classroom platform). Our Open Table in the Desert Southwest has two Mission Leaders, Lynn Wallasky and Bonnie Morley, who guide each Table through their training sessions and then through the year of service. Each Table also receives resources and support through their team’s Google Classroom. Open Table international provides our community with administrative consulting support, quarterly “continuing education” training throughout the year, readiness assessment for Sisters/Brothers, outcome measures and reports, etc.
As a Table member, how much time is required? The commitment is for six two-hour training sessions and then table members commit to one hour per week for the year-long table meetings with their young adult. There is also the additional opportunity for follow-up work and relationship building with the Brother/Sister between table meetings. Occasional missed meetings due to vacation, sickness, etc are expected. Tables end after a year, but relationships continue for a lifetime!
How many people are on a table? There are 6-8 members trained to serve on each table. “Positions” or roles around the table vary depending on the needs of Sisters/Brothers. Roles are based on volunteer willingness to offer support in a particular area and not on professional experience (i.e. the finance chair need not be a CPA, but simply someone willing to offer support in creating a budget, balancing a checkbook, filing taxes, etc).
Is it necessary to live in Clark County to serve on a Table? Our first Tables will partner with the Clark County Social Services and the young adult will reside in the Las Vegas valley. However, in the coming months, UMSM’s Open Table in the Desert Southwest will seek partner churches to launch tables across our North District. These Tables will serve individuals or families in the community who are marginalized. Many populations can be served, such as the homeless, working poor, transitional youth, formerly incarcerated, victims of human trafficking, veterans, immigrants, etc.
To learn more about Open Table in the Desert Southwest, CLICK HERE to link to our site and find the application to serve.
Thankful in Christ, Dan
Rev. Daniel Morley, North District Superintendent, and Missional Strategist