In 1981 Oak Table began as a place where people could come in for a cup of coffee and conversation. It was seen as a way to reach out to the community and neighbourhood surrounding Augustine United Church, in Osborne Village. The Office Administrator welcomed the first guests. Those few visitors began growing in number, and as the needs of the guests became known, so did the need for a formal program.
A part-time staff was hired, and soon 20-30 people were coming each day. The Pheonix room was home to the group, where coffee, snacks, conversation, information and resources were available. The solid oak table our guests first sat around to share their personal stories, gave rise to our name.
Numbers continued to rise, and as a result of an incident that required refurbishing of the stained glass windows in the Pheonix Room, the program moved to a space that would accommodate up to 45 people. Now adjacent to the kitchen, the snack was replaced with lunch, and the additional space allowed for some formal programs and more resources to be offered. A formal art program, health information sessions, and access to a computer began the transition to what we are today. The 45 people soon became 60-70 and the program expanded to include the Guild Hall allowing a capacity to accommodate 120 people.
Close to 40 years later, coffee and conversation remain a cornerstone of Oak Table’s existence. During that time, Oak Table moved from under the operation of Augustine United to securing it’s own independent Board and Charitable Status. In the fall of 2016, Oak Table became an Incorporated Charity.
People from all walks of life enter our doors and find themselves welcomed. Our mission is to provide hospitality and advocacy for those in need of a safe, respectful community. 100+ volunteers now support our guests, living out our mission and working to provide our guests with a safe community of compassion and hope. Today our program continues to expand to accommodate crowds exceeding 200 guests. We have added staff, programs and other resources to meet the growing needs around us. Poverty, addiction, homelessness, isolation and loneliness are challenges our guests face each day. Oak Table staff and volunteers look for practical ways to provide our guests with a brief respite from their struggles, as well as the resources they require.
Today we are a member of 1JustCity whose mission to strengthen and sustain social justice work in Winnipeg through the financial support of its member charities. 1JustCity’s vision works towards a city that is founded on justice, where all are heard, all are welcome, all are cared-for, all are celebrated and all are working together.
We are also a partner of Augustine Centre, a partnership made up of four organizations committed to the redevelopment of the site at 444River/109 Pulford Street in Osborne Village. The mission of Augustine Centre is to be a hub for the arts, education, faith and justice.
Our door remains open. Guests, Volunteers; all are welcome.