New volunteer service program coming to Craig

Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

It has often been said that it “takes a village to raise a child.” While that’s true, it also takes many volunteers to raise a commUNITY.

James T. Weber, the Director of Craig County Department of Social Services, is happy to announce a new program coming to Craig. “It’s called, Open Table. (We’re not talking about the restaurant app!) It is a nationally recognized volunteer program model that is coming to Craig County,” he said.

Open Table is explained to be grounded in the evidence-based practice that centers around the importance of individuals’ prioritizing their own needs, learning to manage life on their own and building natural support networks to help sustain them once formal services end.

“People experiencing poverty and other life challenges need more than clothing or food to make a lasting improvement to their situation – they need positive, supportive relationships,” Weber said.

The program works on a time basis. Over the course of a year, a group of eight to 12 trained volunteers meets with an individual or family seeking support to create positive change. The model educates the volunteers who can be anyone in the community or faith-based organization. The volunteers then form a “Table” that is guided by the individual or families “Life Plan” that is based on their own vision and desire for a better life.

“A principle understanding in the Open Table model is the importance of establishing a personal, trusting relationship between the volunteers and individuals served,” Weber noted. “The relationship is one such that the participants refer to each other as ‘brothers and sisters.’ The relational and social capital of the volunteers is used to provide much-needed support.”

This unique program will be coming to Craig County as part of a partnership between Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, New River Valley Community Services and Mount Rogers Community Services. These three state agencies received a Systems of Care Grant, which includes the establishment of Open Table in one locality within this combined region.

“Craig County is fortunate to be chosen as the community for this project to be implemented,” Weber said. “Open Table groups are established in 20 states, including other areas in Virginia.”

He explained that an outreach effort to local churches, who may serve as a source for potential partners, has been underway for several weeks. However, a ‘Table’ does not require that a church congregation or other organizational body support the volunteer activity in its entirety. The goal is for volunteers for each Table to gather from across the community.

To learn more about Open Table, interested individuals are invited to an orientation meeting on June 4 at 6:30 p.m. The orientation will be held at Grace Baptist Church at 159 Old Railroad Avenue in New Castle.

More information is available by contacting Rhianna Price, Project Coordinator, at, or by calling (540) 981-1102. Registration is requested, but not required.

It is a proven fact that helping people to prosper in any area of their lives gives the volunteer a mental and physical boost that has amazed the field of health research.

If you have an interest, or know of someone, please pass the information on and Craig can be a part of uplifting one another in a new program that some may be desperate for.



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