Dinner with a side of community

Transcript

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 CourtStreetStories.com. 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

Monday:

First United Methodist Church

2 South College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-3977

Time: Noon


Tuesday:

Athens Church of Christ

785 West Union Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7414

Time: 5:30 pm

 

Wednesday:

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

 

Thursday:

United Campus Ministry (UCM)

18 North College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7301         

Time: 5:30 pm

 

Friday:

Good Works

location of meal changes seasonally; call ahead for directions

(740) 594-3339

Time: 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm

 

Saturday:

United Campus Ministry (UCM)

18 North College Street

Athens, OH 45701

(740) 593-7301

Time: Noon

All-inclusive United Campus Ministry offers volunteer opportunities

Editor’s note: In a nod to the Thanksgiving holiday, reporters for the Shopping section of Court Street Stories have decided to “shop” for a local charity. What better way to say “thanks” than to find an organization worthy of a donation or volunteer work?
What’s the UCM?

UCM logo
Their logo, including atheist, Satanic/Wicca, and humanist symbols

Religious institutions have the reputation of being exclusive and righteous to a fault. The United Campus Ministry in Athens couldn’t be more different than that.

Supported entirely by a few local congregations and personal donations, it accepts people from any faith or non-faith. Their mission is to engage the community in spiritual growth, community service and work for justice, guided by socially progressive and interfaith values.

UCM facilitates cooperative activities and discussions among people of varying, sometimes contradictory, faiths.  How can a Christian and a Satanist agree on anything about religion?  Rev. Evan Young, Campus Minister, says it’s all about open discussion.  “We encourage understanding each other and in doing so, we understand ourselves better,” he said.  “We all have the same questions: What happens to us when we die? Why do we suffer?”

The United Campus Ministry would love for you to participate in these discussions and/or get involved in their volunteering efforts this holiday. Here are just a few ways to contribute.

Thursday supper and Saturday lunch

Student and community volunteers work together to plan, prepare, set-up, and serve free, hot, nutritious meals for low-income community members. Every Thursday and Saturday.

Interfaith impact student organization

Interfaith dialogue facilitated by Rev. Young, every Thursday night (7:30-9)

Better Together

An award-winning campaign that focuses on environmental justice and food insecurity in Athens County. Students have raised money and awareness for local and international organizations including Charity Water, the SE Ohio Foodbank, and Community Food Initiatives.

Alternative break trips

Winter break trips have included Witness for Peace delegations to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela; Pine Ridge Reservation, post-Katrina New Orleans, US-Mexico border, and Washington D.C. Available to all students.

PayPal donations

UCM’s website accepts donations of any size.

Buy stuff at Kroger

Kroger gift cards are available at UCM. A percentage of grocery and gas purchases with the Kroger card will go to UCM at no cost to you. Call or email for details and to obtain your card.

Other volunteer opportunities

  • Groundskeeping and routine building maintenance
  • Bulk mailing prep (folding and labeling)
  • Fundraising and outreach events and activities

Social media

To keep up with what the ministry is doing – Follow @ucmohiou on Twitter and/or friend ‘United Campus Ministry at Ohio University’ on Facebook

Additional information on these and other actives can be found on their website.

 

 

Student Org Screens ‘Obvious Child’

United Campus Ministries located on College Street is showing a free screening of the film, Obvious Child on Saturday at 4 PM. Youth Against Misogyny and Sexism is hosting the event. On their Facebook page, they describe themselves as “a group of young people dedicated to fighting to end misogyny and sexism that plague our society.”

United Campus Ministries: Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice is a nonprofit organization that focuses on interfaith and socially progressive values. It is located at 18 N. College Street right across from the Athens Police Department.

With the topic of abortion being a huge debate for people of all faiths and political ideologies in the US,  this film sheds light on what is a very controversial issue that affects us all.

The film stars Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, David Cross, and Gaby Hoffman. Donna (Jenny Slate) is the main character that has a drunken one night stand and finds out she is pregnant. This is an unexpected romantic comedy/drama that focuses on real experiences that happen to women everyday.

Check out the trailer below:

Obvious Child was listed as a New York Times Critic’s Pick and gave a review that said, “..it’s both funny and serious without trying too hard to be either, and by trying above all to be honest.”

The Washington Post movie critic, Ann Hornaday, weighed in stating “The result is a movie that feels risky and forgiving and, despite its traditional rom-com contours, refreshingly new.”

You can find out more about this event on the Facebook page.

The film will be showing at 4 PM at UCM and remember, it’s FREE!