Not the Halloween Block Party you are imagining

When you think Halloween in Athens, Ohio you probably see headlines like this:

via The Post
via The Post
via The Columbus Dispatch
via The Columbus Dispatch

But a few days after the Halloween Block Party emerged a calmer event. The Athens Uptown Business Association organized a trick-or-treat for local children on Halloween last Monday that was free of partygoers and loud music. Instead children filed down Court St stopping at participating businesses to pick up a few pieces of candy. Here’s more:

Caffeinating with a conscience at Donkey

Athens locals and Ohio University students alike turn to Donkey Coffee and Espresso to not only get into a caffeinated overdrive, but also for a strong sense of a diverse community in Appalachia’s favorite college town.

Building community through art with Honey for the Heart

For the last month local artists, both townie and student have collaborated making puppets for the annual Honey for the Heart parade. This year the various projects had to work around the central theme of birds, with each project taking on a different interpretation. Each puppet is unique not only in look, but how it operates, what it’s materials, and overall theme itself. Honey for the Heart is done on a volunteer basis where even the artistically challenged can help. This week anyone can stop by to help finish the puppets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. this week before the parade at 6 p.m. this Saturday at Central Venue on Carpenter Street.

OU student hosts web show identifying counterproductive countertops

Junior Alexandra Greenberg hosts “Counter Productive,” a show in which she identifies poorly placed countertops and surfaces on which to place things in Athens. Check out the first — and likely only — installment of the web series.


Crazy relaxation at the looney bin.

It may sound a little crazy, but next time you get the chance you should really stop by the Athens Insane Asylum…I mean the Ridges.

The Ridges (formerly the Athens Insane Asylum), was a functioning mental health hospital from 1874 to 1993. Ohio University obtained the property in 1989, the land grab almost doubled the size of the Athens, Ohio main campus.

Despite its marred past of mistreating the mentally ill and partaking in acts of quackery such as lobotomy and shock therapy, along with its believed connection to the supernatural, the Ridges is a perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon.

This piece of 19th century architectural gold sits atop the hill (or the ridge rather) on the south side of the Hocking River directly across from West Green. Take a walk out Richland Ave. past the roundabout. Then you will come to a park. Hang a right and then head up the rugged brick road.

(Photo: Eben George
Large black birds perched atop the historic Ridges complex at Ohio University. (Photo: Eben George)

The sprawling grassy knolls of the Ridges make for a perfect picnic perch, lofted above the Hocking River Valley. Bring a friend or a special companion along with you. Layout on a blanket, soak up some rays and raise your serotonin levels with some good ol’ fashion vitamin D.

The beautiful green space at the Ridges makes for a perfect place to collect your thoughts, hit the books and hang with friends. (Photo: Eben George)

If being lazy and lethargic isn’t your thing, then get active and in touch with your nature side. Take a hike on one of the Ridges hiking trails. The favorite trail among students is the Ridges Cemetery Nature Walk. The gravel trail winds through the hill littered, dense wooded area surrounding the grounds.

The cemetery is somewhat of an eerie place, old, decrepit grave markers are scattered throughout a clearing on the hill. Many of the markers bear no name, rather just a number to identify the deceased patients. The lack of names is due to the stigma surrounding the mentally ill during the early days neuroscience and mental healthcare.

It doesn’t take long to notice that many of the buildings at the Ridges are in ill-repair. Despite the crumbling facade, the future does look bright for the the Ridges.

In 2015 OU announced that it has developed a tentative plan to make major renovations to the existing buildings. The plan also includes utilizing the land for new structures.

The university has yet to set a timeline and funding plan for the project in stone. However, the 700-acre complex presents the university with its greatest opportunity for physical expansion. This need for expansion becomes more evident as the main campus population inches closers toward 25,000

Ohio University has already renovated serval of the structures at the Ridges. Most notably the asylum’s administration building, now know as Lin Hall. It boast iconic victorian towers and a breathtaking three tiered porch. Inside the beautiful Scofield creation now resides the Kennedy Museum of Art .

Lin Hall's stunning Victorian era towers were designed by the prominent Cleveland architect, Levi Scofield, in 1868. (Photo: Eben George)
Lin Hall’s stunning Victorian era towers were designed by the prominent Cleveland architect, Levi Scofield, in 1868. (Photo: Eben George)

Regardless of your interest, the Ridges is a perfect place to unwind from the tightly wound spool of college life. Go and catch up on your R and R before you wind up being in need of a lobotomy yourself.


Why my favorite place in Athens is a green, metal bench

My favorite place on Ohio University’s campus isn’t so much a building or object as it is a setting; the location is more important to me than the object itself. Keep that in mind, because my favorite spot can be pretty underwhelming without context. It may seem a bit disappointing, especially given the options available to me in Athens, but my favorite spot on campus is a green, metal bench that sits outside of the Academic and Research Center on West Green.

Honestly, the bench really isn’t that comfortable. I usually bring an extra sweatshirt with me to place on the seat to make sitting on it for long periods of time tolerable. And I usually don’t sit there before 4 p.m. on weekdays. The rush of students going in and out of the ARC can be pretty distracting. The bench is also right next to a bike rack. I — or I should say my elbows — learned very early on not to get too comfortable while students are adding and removing bikes from the rack. Elbow bruises cause more problems than you’d think.

The view from the bench

But the bench does have its redeeming qualities. It’s outside. As one can easily determine after looking at how pale I am, I don’t really get outside much. Spending an hour or two outdoors is not only good for my complexion, but it’s pretty relaxing as well. I also look forward to hearing birds chirp or seeing the famous Athens squirrels digging through trashcans to find dinner. It’s all part of the college experience, you know?

Don’t be fooled; I’m not a person who is extremely fond of nature. I flinch when I see an ant. I’ve never been a huge fan of outdoor pursuits, but there’s just something so calming about doing homework while sitting in a secluded part of campus and being able to glance over my shoulder to watch the sun set on the western horizon.

The best part about my favorite spot is I can still continue to work there after the sun goes down. Unlike other spots on campus, the area by my favorite bench is still illuminated at night. The spherical lamps and img_0244yellow light spilling from the windows and entrance to the ARC spreads across the area so well, I can still read notes I wrote by hand in light blue ink. Even when the sky becomes pitch black and the stars become visible, my favorite spot remains not only beautiful, but functional, too.

So here’s to you, green bench. Thank you for being something seemingly unimportant to most and a treasure to me.

At Donkey Coffee, you can add a dash of politics to your fair-trade coffee

“Would you like a side of politics with that?”

Athens, Ohio is abundant in businesses that mix their service to customers with political discourse. From Avalanche Pizza’s caricatures of presidential candidates to Little Fish’s “No Fracking Way” beer brewed with all Ohio ingredients, Southeast Ohioans are accustomed to seeing politics on the menu.

A politically-minded Athens business that stands out to me is Donkey Coffee, who stirs a little social justice into your otherwise average cup of fair-trade joe. Donkey continues to be a leading coffee joint in Athens not only for their comfy couches and cozy ambiance, but because of their devotion to community outreach and promotion of political discourse.

Their website bares a list of organizations who they support that “fundamentally positively influence people.” The list includes groups such as Amnesty International, Fair Trade USA, Pregnancy Resource Center and My Sisters Place. continues:

“We are committed to promoting social justice and the arts in our community and throughout the world through public awareness, serving, and financial giving. This is the heart of what Donkey is about.”

They took their loyalty to the enrichment of the community one step further this week by having customers rattle off their favorite part of the Constitution in trade for a drink on the house.

Yesterday, Donkey Coffee started the work week by observing an all-American event that took place on September 17, 1787. Baristas celebrated the signing of the Constitution by trading a customer’s favorite constitutional right for a free coffee drink.

This was a part of Donkey’s recent “Free Drink Monday” event.  After I recited Article 1 Section 3 of the Constitution (which provides some much-needed accountability to Congress), Michael, one of the baristas, told me the story of the couple that inspired the weekly freebie.

You can thank two Donkey frequenters Steve and Janet for your free power chai latte each Monday. Michael said the couple were such loyal customers that they accrued upwards of 4,000 points on their Donkey Coffee rewards card. Each drink equals one point (and after 10 points, you receive a free drink) so you can definitely say they were regulars.

Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.
Haley McKelvey enjoys a mocha latte during a exhausting study session on the second floor of Donkey Coffee.

They never spent their points and eventually moved out of town, so they donated the thousands of points to the customers of Donkey. So each week, Donkey asks their customers to recite a poem about Donkey Coffee, or dance for 10 seconds or like yesterday, share their favorite constitutional right of theirs, to use Steve and Janet’s donation.

Donkey continues to be my go-to spot to sip on an iced latte over statistics homework, not only for their plentitude of power outlets and couches, but because you might get into an interesting discussion over the patriarchy or systemic racism with your barista.

And has anyone else thought about the fact that the name of their coffee shop just so happens to be the symbol of a major political party? Maybe it’s just me.

Regardless of political preference, Athenians will continue to get their coffee fix from Donkey for years to come.



Dinner with a side of community


Athens, OH: the most impoverished county in the state. Last month’s Ohio Poverty Report said 51 percent of residents– about 13,000 people– live below self-sufficiency and 16 percent rely on food stamps.

Those food stamps only add up to about $110 per week, though, hardly enough to feed a family. Community members and university students help fill those gaps.

“Sure it’s important to prep food and get it to people who need food, but the primary goal is create an experience of community. So it’s not people standing behind a counter serving food.”

That’s Evan Young, the campus minister at the town’s United Campus ministry. The organization is a center for spiritual growth, social justice, and, for over two decades, it’s also been the host of community meals. Yes, that’s their specific term– community meal.

“The idea is that we are not just a soup kitchen– the idea is that it’s a community meal. So all these people are coming together to build friendships and connect with each other over food.”

That’s how Kelli Wanamaker describes it. She’s a UCM Free Meal Intern, a position she’s held for 2 years. Evan says people like Kelli are the reason these meals exist.

“Thursday supper and Saturday lunch exist because students who are involved and engaged in the community looked around and saw a need. They said there are a lot of hungry people here and no free meal on Thursdays.. We have this space, what can we do?”

What they manage to pull off takes days of preparation. Jackie Duffy is a Social Work Intern at UCM.

“So usually on Tuesday we’ll come in …. and we’ll see what kind of ingredients there are, what donations we’ve gotten, what we have in the freezers and all that sort of thing. It’s about a 2day prep i would say. Come in on Thursday and make a shopping list. We get donations from tons of organizations, Athens community members, former interns, churches, etc.”

Evan says the community’s support is imperative, but it’s also increasingly impressive. The night I went to eat with them, I was expecting pots and pans and casseroles of homemade dishes. That happens most of the time, but when I walked in and saw pizza delivery boxes, I was… surprised.

“Avalanche donates the pizza. That’s great! We have a relationship with chipotle, they donate some of their leftover food. Pigskin, every now and then they’ll show up with a tray of pork loin.. It’s like Thursday night we made this for you. Awesome! That’s great!”

And who is enjoying this food? Ask Miranda McKinney, another Free Meal Intern, and she’ll tell you why that’s her favorite part of the job.

“They are for everybody. I think that’s what’s so great is it’s not just students, it’s not just community members, it’s not just old people… i can sit down and have a convo with people who are 60 or 16 or 6.”

I spoke to David Hardinger, an Athens man who had stopped by for a free meal.

“How long have you been coming to free meals? About 10 years…. Why do you like coming here? To socialize with my friends.”

David told me his favorite meal UCM cooks is chicken, but he asked me to make them serve Sheppard’s Pie one of these days. I told him they would need a lot of pies. There were about 30 people in the room that night, but the space was only half full.

“The level at which it’s utilized varies with the economy… a few years ago with the recession, we were seeing between 50-75 people a night. It’s less now, things are not quite as dire.”

Community members and university students serve free meals 6 days a week throughout the town– you can find a list of the locations on No matter the organization serving food, though, one thing is for certain:

“You just come in and eat, whether you really need it or you don’t.”

For CourtStreetStories, I’m Bianca Hillier.

Free Meals in Athens, OH


First United Methodist Church

2 South College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-3977

Time: Noon


Athens Church of Christ

785 West Union Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7414

Time: 5:30 pm



Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd

64 University Terrace

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-6877

Time: Noon


Friends and Neighbors Community Center

24576 Parkersburg Road

Coolville, OH 45723

(740) 667-0684

Time: Noon



United Campus Ministry (UCM)

18 North College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7301         

Time: 5:30 pm



Good Works

location of meal changes seasonally; call ahead for directions

(740) 594-3339

Time: 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm



United Campus Ministry (UCM)

18 North College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7301

Time: Noon

Bentley Annex? What’s that?

JOB DESCRIPTION: Perform miscellaneous office duties including but not limited to: typing and computer work, copying, mail, collating, running errands and assisting with various departmental projects.

QUALIFICATIONS: Must possess typing and computer skills and have a desire to hang out with very cool history faculty and staff in a low-key, fun office.

My sophomore year I was fortunate enough to obtain a job as an office assistant in the History Department at Ohio University. At first glance, my office seems bland and desolate, but it’s the people that bring it to life. The intellect and compassion of this fourth-floor faculty has left a permanent mark on my life.

It’s rare to hear a person say their favorite place in Athens is their place of employment. But, Bentley Annex 461 is my home away from home.

My office in Bentley Annex
My job is much more exciting than my office…I promise.

When people think of the word history they immediately check out. My bosses along with the professors know how to combine work and play. If the office assistants ask to have a food day, we almost always get a yes just as long as we do the planning. They have taken us to Lui Lui and Sol and they have had Kiser’s BBQ and Avalanche cater for us as well.

I’ve learned many valuable lessons from the professors. The female professors act as motherly figures towards me and the other office assistants. They are often my counselors and confidants. I have gone to them for everything ranging from getting a big girl job to venting about mean college boys. The male professors often joke with me and discuss the latest issues in sports just as my dad does.

My office is connected to the mailroom and the kitchen so people are constantly walking past my desk. Every professor that steps through my door always greets me with a smile and a friendly “Hi! How are you doing?” It’s clear that all the professors have a genuine interest in how I as well as my coworkers are doing in life and in school (probably just so we’ll scan

One time I scanned 100 pages for a professor only to have it all deleted.
The majority of my work day consists of scanning entire books for the history professors.

their 8 million books for them). Most of the jobs/projects they have us work on, like scanning entire books, are incredibly tedious but they save the professors a lot of time. I have had to go through five pages of sign in sheets and check off student’s names for participation and extra credit points. Note to underclassmen: signing your name twice on two different pages does not count for two extra credit points. As office assistants, we get to frolic around campus posting flyers and we also help promote becoming a history major (even though I’m a journalism major) with cookies and hot chocolate.

At times there can be five different office assistants working at once which can be overwhelming for my bosses. If there isn’t any work to be done, we are free to work on homework and even watch Netflix.

A lot of my friends are envious of my simple yet super fun job and I don’t blame them. I am forever grateful that this position has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people. I have always wanted to pursue a career as a sports agent and I have had many doubts of whether or not I would make it in law school. But, the professors I am closest with have pushed me and helped me see that I am truly capable of anything. It isn’t hard to find faculty on this campus that want to see you succeed but to find a whole department is uncommon.

When the elevator doors open to the fourth floor in Bentley Annex, I always find myself letting out a sigh of relief. Bentley Annex 461 is my safe place and my favorite place in Athens, Ohio.