UCA's Community Table Forges Personal Connections

Though Upper Columbia Academy (UCA) is only about a mile from the little farming town of Spangle, Wash., the interaction between the academy and the community has been minimal. This school year, however, has been different thanks to a new outreach project, “Community Table."

The idea grew as UCA students traveled through Spangle each week to feed Spokane's hungry. Students and staff began to wonder if there wasn’t something that could be done closer to home.

The academy’s outreach coordinator, Cheri Corder, contacted the Spangle Service Club, and they offered the use of their facility twice a month. The goal was to provide a good meal and a great story to people struggling financially or feeling alone. The benefits ended up being much greater than was initially imagined.

“I can’t tell you how much positive feedback about this I have heard from people,” commented the community church’s pastor. “Along with people from your church and people from my church, there are also a number of unchurched people coming. And while nothing’s ever been preachy, there’s always some spiritual component. I’m so glad to see you reaching people in this way!”

The simple menu of soup, sandwiches, hot drinks and cookies was accented by the table decorations and stories. For the first story, UCA’s history teacher, Mike Martling, wore his Civil War uniform and told about Lincoln proclaiming Thanksgiving an official national holiday. Other features included UCA mission trip reports, stories about the nature and life of Hawaii, and performances by UCA’s vocal octet and brass quintet. For Valentine’s Day, leading community members told how they met their wives. On another evening, a community leader told about the work of Shriners Hospitals.

“It’s never seemed like an ‘Adventist’ function,” said another community leader. “It truly seems like a community function. You’ve done a lot to bring us all together, to help us all get acquainted.”

On the first evening, 42 people attended. On the last evening for the school year, nearly 70 people came. “On the first evening, people came in at 6:29 and left at 7:31,” said Corder. “After a few weeks, they were coming at 6:15 and not leaving until 8:00 or after. That in itself told me that we were connecting, making friends.”