Booker T. Johnson famously said, “Excellence is to do a common thing, in an uncommon manner.”
Perhaps one of the most inspiring examples of this sentiment is showcased right here in my hometown of Bend, Oregon.
This week, a new restaurant opened downtown. But its not just any restaurant. Common Table is established as a non-profit restaurant that allows diners to share meals and experiences around the large 20-foot long table in the center of the space. The co-founders of Common Table also seek to bring low-income and homeless individuals to the table, by providing $10 vouchers to off-set the cost of a meal to organizations including NeighborImpact and Family Access Network.
The $10 vouchers are paid for from profits of the restaurant (since it is 100% non-profit) and by patrons who choose to buy them for people in need.
Zack Hancock explained the idea behind Common Table:
“Its a place where we hope people will gather. Everyone comes to the table regardless of pedigree.”
Far from a soup kitchen, meals sold and enjoyed at Common Table will bring a diverse group of people together and perhaps spark conversations from patrons who might not otherwise be sharing a meal. Through the experience of dining together, a deeper understanding of the issues faced from all segments of society might be forged. Quite possibly, the common table will break down false barriers and build new foundations of understanding and compassion.
All meals served will be prepared with local and organic food. Offerings will include tasty sandwiches, quiches and soups. You can also get a cold beer or fruity sangria to go along with your dish.
I walked past Common Table yesterday, the day it was first open to the public. In addition to the large, community table in the interior, there are spots outside at which you can dine, set up with rolled cloth napkins. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all available, as well as drinks. While we will have to see how the restaurant does in operation, it appears to me that concerns that panhandling will increase in this area of downtown Bend are inflated. Common Table appears to be a hand-up, rather than a hand-out for people struggling in the economic downturn.
With nearly $300,000 in pledged or donated funds, the restaurant can be operational at a non-profit level for three years. Twenty employees have been hired, but much of the work at Common Table is done by volunteer staff. In fact, over 200 unemployed and under-employed people in Bend have offered to help at Common Table to boost their resume and – most likely – their morale.
Common Table is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Watch for local events, including book readings and lectures, to be hosted at Common Table, too.
You can find Common Table at 150 N.W. Oregon Avenue, Bend, Oregon 97701.
Telephone: (541) 639-5546
To volunteer or find out more, go to Common Table.net.