December 2019 Newsletter Open Table Newsletter December 2019
Newsletter for Open Table

What is Open Table?

Groups of people that form communities-called Tables- that transform their vocational and life experiences into tools our marginalized youth and families can use to develop and achieve their life goals.  These tables meet 1 hour per week for a year to practice relationship building and support.  Open Table is a nationally recognized mentoring program for transitioning foster youths and at risk biological parents.  

James Samaritan's launch of Open Table in the Covington Region has been successful.  We are continuing to set the curve nationally with rapid expansion of Open Table not only in the Covington Region, but now in every Region of Louisiana.  

St James Episcopal Church

Launched its first table in February 2019.  We were both nervous and eager to meet our Brother, an 18 year old high school senior, but we all immediately hit it off when we got together the first time for the "Breaking of the Bread".  Our Brother told us that he was excited about his upcoming graduation but also uncertain and anxious about what lay ahead for him.  He identified two goals he wanted to work on with the Table, and our weekly meetings focused on supporting him as he figured out the steps he needed to take to reach those goals.  

Forming Relationships

As important as mapping out this strategy was, a lot more was going on as we met week after week.  We were sharing ourselves with each other- our life experiences, our social connections, our time.  We were building community and forming relationships.  Sitting at the Table together mattered.  Over the summer, our Brother began working full-time and began to question his plan to go to college, which he had previously identified as his number one goal.  With no mention of his change of mind to the Table Members, our Brother decided not to enroll at LSUA in the fall and to continue with his job.  Unsure how the Table would react to his new plan, he stopped communicating!!

Table members were worried, then one day came the much hoped for text from our Brother:  "I'm ready."  Rather than assemble the entire Table, two of us arranged to meet him for pizza with no agenda except to reconnect.  He and his roommate were standing outside when we drove up, and his roommate, whom I had never met, greeted me with "So you're the Miss Joy he has been talking about?"  With this statement I realized that even though our Table had not been meeting, our Brother had been thinking about us.  Our Table still mattered to him and to us.  
Over dinner our Brother explained that when he changed his mind about going to college, he had been afraid that we might judge him or not stick by him.  Convinced by our persistent texts that we would not abandon him, he wanted to get back together.  He also confided that recently he had been thinking more about going to school.  
Will our Table now resume meeting without interruption?  Will our Brother enroll in school and continue to work toward his original goals?  I don't know.  I do know that he realizes that there are six people in Alexandria who care about him and are committed to encourage, advocate for, and help him navigate his life.  And we six Table Members know that our lives are richer, fuller, and better because of our relationship with him.  And this is what Open Table is all about!

Written by Joy Owensby, Open Table Mission Leader at St James Episcopal Church in Alexandria.