History of the Oak Table

As recalled by Bev Ridd, Volunteer for 20 years and former chair of the OTCM Board, July 2015

Oak Table Inc. began as an outreach ministry of Augustine United Church in 1981, as a way of reaching out to the neighbourhood community in Osborne Village. During the day, the doors of the church were open and folks could come in for a cup of coffee and conversation. Joan Hibbert (currently a volunteer at the Wednesday afternoon Art Program) was the Office Administrator who welcomed the first visitors. As the numbers of people dropping by increased it became clear that there was a need for a formal program.

A part-time staff person was hired and people were welcome to come in and sit around the Oak Table in the Phoenix Room, 1:30 – 3:30 Monday to Friday. Twenty to thirty people came by each day for a cup of coffee and a snack as well information on resources they could access. Volunteers got a good workout walking back and forth to the church kitchen as there was no water in that room.

We soon found the numbers overflowing our space. An incident happened about that time that enabled us to move to the Red Cross Room in the Guild Hall. One Gate Night large concrete rocks were thrown through the Phoenix Room window. The ensuing damage caused us to vacate that space and move to the larger space adjacent to the church kitchen. We now could accommodate up to 45 people.

The number of people attending the Oak Table continued to increase beyond the capacity of our space (up to 60 or 70 a day). As well, we were also offering more programs such as the weekly Art Group and Health information sessions, plus access to a computer. A serious accident occurred one Saturday morning when a large part of the Red Cross Room plaster ceiling fell to the floor. Fortunately nobody was in the room at the time. Now we have moved into the large Guild Hall that can accommodate 120 people. Our 100 volunteers are now able to provide hospitality and programming for the 100-110 guests we regularly see each day.

In December 2008 the Oak Table was established as the Oak Table Community Ministry, a community ministry under Winnipeg Presbytery of the United Church, with a new constitution and multi-faith Board of Directors. In June 2009 we received our charitable status number from the Charities Board of Canada.