Nearly 300 Winnipeggers from all areas of the city gathered in downtown Winnipeg today at an outdoor picnic that stretched a full city block, to break bread and share their thoughts on how we can make Winnipeg better, together.
Members of the Muslim and Aboriginal community; people from business and unions; CEOs, social workers and city councillors; students, educators and retirees were just a few of the Winnipeggers who sat side by side to exchange ideas.
The conversations over the pop-up event at the corner of King St. and Alexander Ave. – the former site of Winnipeg’s first City Hall – were part of Red Tables. It was the second of United Way of Winnipeg’s Winnipeg Wednesdays, asking Winnipeggers to start a conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing the city.
Guests seated at 30 round tables under a huge white tent in the green space in the middle of downtown Winnipeg were asked to discuss what they love about the city, and to share their thoughts on important social issues including poverty, homelessness, school readiness, race relations and safety, as well as ways to support families and their thoughts on what a better Winnipeg might look like in five years.
“In the 50 years United Way has been part of Winnipeg, so much has changed,” said Ayn Wilcox, Chair of United Way of Winnipeg’s 50th Anniversary Steering Committee. “But our vision of a thriving community where everyone can reach their potential has remained the same. We wanted to give Winnipeggers the opportunity to share with each other, and with us, what a better Winnipeg looks like to them.”
At the conclusion of the event, United Way staff collected the comments and will report back to the community on what they heard at this and other Red Table discussions around Winnipeg.
“(The event) provided a really great opportunity for Winnipeggers from various backgrounds to come together and talk collaboratively about these important issues,” said Angie Hutchinson, the incoming Chair of United Way’s Aboriginal Relations Council. “These can be difficult conversations to have, especially around race relations, and we had those discussions in a setting that was comfortable for everybody.”
Bringing people to the table to talk about the challenges and opportunities we’re facing isn’t a new idea. Thomas Jefferson did it almost 200 years ago at Monticello and since then, communities across North America have been hosting “Jeffersonian Dinners” – bringing groups of people from all different spheres together.
The Red Tables event was sponsored by MTS, whose president, Kelvin Shepherd, is also United Way’s 2015/16 Campaign Chair.
“For 50 years, United Way has been working with Winnipeggers to make our city a better place to live and work in. MTS also has a proud heritage of serving Manitobans for over 100 years,” Shepherd said.
“Through our MTS Future First program, MTS is supporting organizations such as United Way who are building the bridges needed for us to all work together, helping ensure Winnipeg continues to grow as a progressive, healthy community that we are proud to call home.”
United Way’s GenNext council is also hosting a pop-up Red Table dinner, tonight at 7 p.m., under the canopy at The Forks.
“Engaging the GenNext demographic is important in order to get younger generations discussing issues we’re facing as a community, to get involved and make a difference and to know that they have that choice to make,” said dinner co-organizer and GenNext member Lana Bakun. “It is important to get the younger generations involved to ensure the support and opportunities provided by United Way and its agency partners continue to build a better Winnipeg,” added co-organizer Kayla Dickin.
Winnipeggers have also been invited to hold their very own Red Table events throughout June by downloading a kit at www.winnipegwednesday.ca/redtables. The kit includes starter questions to get the conversation going, a feedback form to share ideas for a better Winnipeg and a way to send the details back to United Way to help shape its plans for the future.
United Way of Winnipeg created Winnipeg Wednesdays to mark the occasion of its 50th anniversary. The four Wednesdays in June celebrate Winnipeggers’ caring and compassion by having fun in ways that can make a positive difference. You can learn more and join in at winnipegwednesday.ca
Red Tables: By the numbers
300 – Guests at United Way of Winnipeg’s Red Tables event today
30 – Tables under the tent at the former site of Winnipeg’s first City Hall
4 – Questions Winnipeggers answered during the Red Table luncheon today:
- What is the best thing about living in Winnipeg?
- United Way’s vision is “a thriving community where everyone can reach their potential.” When you think of a better, thriving Winnipeg five years from now, what does it look like?
- We hear a lot about social issues like poverty, homelessness, school readiness, race relations, and safety. Considering these issues – and others – which matter most to you? What makes them important to you?
- It’s been said that families, in their many forms, are the building blocks of a thriving community. Based on your own experience, how can we best support families and ensure they thrive in our community?
4 – Winnipeg Wednesdays in June, including Red Tables, that Winnipeggers are invited to join in as part of United Way of Winnipeg’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Every 2 minutes – rate at which someone in Winnipeg is helped by United Way, every day.
The people behind the numbers
Some of the people who attended today’s event include:
- Ayn Wilcox, Chair of United Way of Winnipeg’s 50th Anniversary Steering Committee
- Kelvin Shepherd, President of MTS (Red Tables major sponsor) and 2015/16 United Way of Winnipeg Campaign Chair
- Angie Hutchinson, incoming Chair of United Way of Winnipeg’s Aboriginal Relations Council
- Lana Bakun and Kayla Dickin, co-organizers of United Way’s GenNext council, which is also holding a smaller Red Tables pop-up dinner at 7 p.m. on June 10, under the canopy at The Forks
- Yasmin Ali, President, Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, which promotes and empowers Muslim women and their families, including newcomers to Canada: “A lot of newcomers to Canada can help make Winnipeg a better place – they have family values, community values, and a good work ethic, but they just don’t get the opportunities. Winnipeg needs to become more inclusive and accepting of everyone, with more support for agencies like ours that work with newcomers.”
- Mike Tutthill, Executive Director, Rainbow Resource Centre, which serves the LGBTTQ* community: “It’s really exciting to share ideas with other community-minded folks about their vision is for a better Winnipeg. I think some of biggest issues in Winnipeg are inequity and racism, so a better Winnipeg for me would have less division between people and communities, and a more equitable and fair Winnipeg.”
- Jim Lapp, Community Leader, L’Arche Winnipeg, which creates homes with people who have an intellectual disability: “I’d like to see our community become more inclusive… for all people to feel they belong, and to feel appreciated and welcomed. Many people feel disconnected and like they are not part of any community in our society. To find ways to include them, to make them feel part of and welcome in the community, is very important.”
- Marion Cooper, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association (Winnipeg Region), which provides mental health services and supports: “It’s great that United Way is engaging the broader community around what makes Winnipeg a good place to live, and what we need to do to make it even better. It gives us all a chance to share our hopes and dreams for our communities, our families, our workplaces. Those are the things that contribute to health and wellbeing for all of us.”
- Natalie Mulaire, Chief Operating Officer, SMD Self-Help Clearinghouse, which strives for long term sustainability so that programs and services are available to meet the needs of children, youth and adults with disabilities: “It’s nice to sit down face to face and meet other Winnipeggers and just talk… I think in Winnipeg we need to find ways to stop the ever-growing economic gap between major parts of our society. We need to value the diversity in people by getting to know other parts of our city and the people who live there.”
- Tracy Booth, Executive Director, The Elizabeth Fry Society, which addresses the unique needs of women in the provincial and federal justice systems: “We talk about the over-criminalization of Aboriginal people. The city really has to tackle the racism here, and we need to create some equality.”
- Mary Beth Taylor, President and Senior Fundraising Advisor of The Creaddo Group, a local agency that offers fundraising expertise to charities. (Available after the event only) Creaddo Group staff are hosting their own Red Table lunch on Thursday, June 11: “We love our city, and we believe in its health. These discussions aren’t always easy but they are very important. We’re taking the four questions being asked today and looking at them through our own lens, from a charitable giving perspective.”
- Marlene Davis, Communications Officer, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, which works to support and rebuild Aboriginal families in Winnipeg. The centre also hosted their own Red Tables lunch today at 363 McGregor Street, with community members, members from Win Gardner Place and YWCA-YMCA, and others joining in to answer the Red Table questions and talk about Winnipeg’s future.