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The Jefferson Regional Foundation recently announced the release of its report examining the outcomes of its inaugural ‘Around the Table South,’ a series of small-group conversations that took place in 2018.

The report was introduced at a breakfast discussion on Wednesday, April 17 as the Foundation joined the Big Table Pittsburgh effort by gathering 40 of its Around the Table Hosts at Whitehall House in Brentwood.

Last year, more than 1,000 residents of diverse backgrounds from across the region served by the Foundation connected around more than 100 tables over breakfast, lunch or dinner with the goal of discussing how to make the South Hills and Mon Valley communities healthier, safer, and more dynamic. Host organizations included social services, healthcare, schools and universities, businesses, libraries, religious, and civic organizations, as well as foundation board members.

Analyzed by the University Center for Social and Urban Research at the University of Pittsburgh, the report found that mental health and addiction was the number one topic discussed at all tables and across all demographics. Other issues raised included equity and social inclusion, which was discussed more frequently by younger participants with higher education; health and wellness, which was prioritized more among women and older adults; economic issues and poverty, which was emphasized most by participants who live in the Jefferson Regional Foundation service area and African-American participants; and education, transportation, youth development, and civic engagement.

“The results of our Around the Table survey validate that there is a clear correlation between making connections and feeling more informed, hopeful, and inspired to act,” said Mary Phan-Gruber, Executive Director, Jefferson Regional Foundation. “We are very encouraged by the energy generated by last year’s event as well as the huge response among participants who not only wanted it to be repeated, but also indicated their personal willingness to participate again.”

Following last year’s event, participating residents and organizations launched a variety of initiatives to address the priorities discussed, including mobilizing support groups for caregivers and families affected by addiction, as well as health and wellness awareness campaigns. The Foundation also launched a mini-grants fund called “Ideas from the Table” to support small projects resulting from Around the Table South.

The Foundation plans to hold another Around the Table South in the fall of 2019.

Spearheaded by the Jefferson Regional Foundation and the Jefferson Community Collaborative, last year’s Around the Table South generated an estimated $15,080 economic impact and inspired more than 70% of participants to act in creating positive change.

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