SCHERERVILLE — As part of an effort to generate creative solutions and spark civic dialogue in Lake County, Legacy Foundation launched its countywide initiative On the Table during its 24th annual meeting Tuesday at the Halls of St. George.

“The objective of On the Table is to gather six to eight folks around a table on one specific day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, wine and cheese to share ideas on challenges and improvements for Lake County,” said Carolyn Saxton, president of the Merrillville-based Legacy Foundation.

Sept. 26 has been chosen for those small groups to gather anywhere in Lake County including homes, local restaurants, community centers, offices, libraries or schools. Legacy Foundation staff and the board of directors hope that thousands of people in Lake County will gather for a meal and to share their vision for improving Lake County, said Erica Fizer, director of marketing and communications.

Participants at each On the Table gathering will provide their key takeaways and feedback using a short survey created by the University of Illinois Chicago Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement (IPCE). The IPCE will analyze the survey data and submit a report to Legacy Foundation.

Legacy Foundation will share that report publicly and utilize the feedback to guide the foundation’s future grant making efforts and encourage new collaborations.

“We believe that each voice is essential to building a safer, healthier, more prosperous region,” reads Legacy Foundation’s “Guide to Giving” booklet. “If you live, work, worship or play in Lake County, we encourage you to participate. Your voice matters.”

A steering committee of community members has already connected with 100 people to host one or multiple tables of six to eight individuals for conversations on Sept. 26.

“Your opinions and suggestions matter to us and will help guide Legacy’s future direction. Please pull up your chair to On the Table,” said Saxton, who joined Legacy Foundation three years ago and manages more than $50 million in 260 funds that support the philanthropic mission set up nearly a quarter century ago.

The Legacy Foundation’s annual meeting attracted dozens of community, civic and nonprofit organization leaders to enjoy appetizers and jazz music performed by the Gary Emerson High School “Tornadoes.”

Legacy Foundation was one of 10 community foundations across the U.S. selected to launch the On the Table initiatives this year with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Fizer said.

Support for On the Table is just one of the Knight Foundation’s efforts to help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of civic engagement, she said.

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