Athena Cinema event works to help during the holidays

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By Amanda DePerro

With the holiday season comes the reminder that there are many who are not quite as fortunate and need a little bit of extra help to feed their families.

Surrounded by Appalachia, that’s not so foreign a thought for those who live in and around Athens County. According to Quickfacts.Census.gov between 2007 and 2011, more that 31.5 percent of Athens residents live below the poverty line. This is dramatically higher than the Ohio average of 14.8 percent.

Fortunately Ohio University and the Athens community come together to help these less fortunate residents out. Just one of these collaborations is the Athena Cinema’s Holiday Film Series.

The series features one holiday movie per week for four weeks. Each week’s movie is shown twice on Saturdays, once at 1:00p.m. and again at 3:00p.m. What sets this film series apart is its affiliation with the less fortunate Athens community and food pantries.

The cost of a ticket for each showing is one non-perishable food item. Everything donated from the film series goes to Athens food pantries to “stamp out food insecurity,” according to the Athena’s website.

“Ohio University has a great commitment to the Athens community,” said Jennifer Neubauer, Assistant Vice President of Alumni Affairs. “Anything we can do to be supportive, and given the level of poverty in the county, it’s a critical need here.”

The key to the Athena event is that it not only involves Athens residents but also allows OU students to join in to help the community around them.

Sean Rickey, projectionist and assistant manager at the Athena, believes the event affects both parties by “bringing people in and knowing that when they come in they’re part of a bigger community.”

OU junior Amy Hamilton attended the showing of Elf on Dec. 7.

“I know that helping Athens makes me happier so I think that helping out made the event worthwhile,” said Hamilton.


“This is what our school is, this is our home,” she said. “We have an obligation as students here and as residents of this town to be helping the permanent residents.”

While the Athena’s Holiday Film Series is a vital way for students and community members to become involved in helping out the less fortunate residents that surround them, there are many other ways to assist the county.

The Athens County Food Pantry, which was founded in 1981, includes on its homepage ways for those interested to help in the most valuable ways they can, such as types of food that the food pantry is in special need of or ways to volunteer.

In 2012 alone, the Athens County Food Pantry distributed nearly 133,000 pounds of food to almost 12,000 eligible Athens County residents. The food pantry also distributes snack bags for elementary schools in the county as well as vouchers for baby food and diapers.

Neubauer has only been in Athens for a year and was unpleasantly surprised to see the poverty that surrounds Athens residents.

“I didn’t have a real understanding of the level of poverty that we experience here in southeastern Ohio and being at the foothills of Appalachia,” Neubauer said. “We really have a commitment to trying to do what we can for those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”

“I think while we’re here and while we can, we should be doing what we need to be doing to improve our surroundings and our environment,” said Hamilton. “I’m not a very well off college student for myself, but I can definitely do my part.”

To learn more about future Athena Holiday Film Series events and ways to get involved with the Athens community, visit AthensOhio.com