Community dialogue surrounding local needs to return in 'The Big Table' discussion


The Columbus Foundation's "The Big Table" is back.

On Wednesday, Aug. 28, people all over central Ohio will come together for face-to-face conversations about the needs in the community. It’s all about people connecting, sharing thoughts and ideas and inspiring one another to improve the neighborhoods we all live in.

Last year, Leigh Ann Simms hosted a Big Table discussion. In her group, they decided helping children was the biggest need.

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“And one of the attendees actually said something that really resonated with us, which was, if we have children in our community that aren't doing well, that shouldn't be okay with us, regardless of what zip code they're in,” said Simms.

She soon met Steve Garland, Executive Director of The Hardy Center. The center is a place where inner-city kids in the North Linden neighborhood don’t have to worry about their next meal, getting bullied or being devalued as a human being. It’s a safe place for young people to learn, play and build character.

“People look at inner-city problems as being something they wanna stay away from because the mountain’s too big. It ain’t too big. Stuff can be done. What you do is saving one child at a time,” Garland told 10TV.

Simms decided helping Garland continue the work he does with children through The Hardy Center was the best way to bring their Big Table conversation to life. It was a way to help children.

“Once you meet Steve — he’s so inspiring and the work that he does is so wonderful, the sacrifices he makes, you can’t not help this guy," she said.

With help from the Columbus Foundation and local business owners, they were able to repair the outdated infrastructure of The Hardy Center building. They updated the bathroom, renovated the kitchen and provided two new vans to transport the children.

Garland says they came in like an army and went to work. He and everyone at the center are extremely grateful.

Simms isn’t stopping there. She wants to get Garland all of the support he needs to continue the amazing work he does at The Hardy Center.

“I want to see these kids coming back with their own kids and say, 'Look, I was here and this changed my life,'” said Garland. “That would be everything to me.”

The Big Table 2019 is Wednesday, Aug. 28. You can find more information here.