Friday, August 28, 2009

Ohio University Kids on Campus

The youth of Appalachia is taking part in activities that provide creative outlets and indirect learning through Ohio University's Kids on Campus.

Although the organization has many programs designed for children, the wood-working shop has been one of the most popular, says Eric Tabler, facilitator of the class, adding that the hands-on work the students are doing is very rewarding. Another benefit of the class is that it gives students practice with mathematics without the conventionalities of a classroom. As a high school Spanish teacher, Tabler has had experience in a classroom setting, and because of his previous knowledge of wood-working and the enjoyment he receives from this hobby, he chose to facilitate this class.

Kids on Campus is a program that provides youth with activities they may not normally be able to take part in. Its goal is to enrich the lives of these children by providing them with classes such as wood-working as well as academic programs and tutoring sessions. Tabler believes this is important for children today. The organization also extends these services into the school year by providing after school sessions.

The Athens Foundation assisted Kids on Campus by granting it funds to buy the supplies needed to execute its classes, such as the wood and tools for the wood-working class.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Athens Photographic Project

Breaking barriers is what the Athens Photographic Project is all about, says Project Director Nate Thomson.

By enrolling individuals recovering from mental health problems in photography courses, the Project is interested in providing students with an artistic outlet in which they are able to overcome the obstacles their illnesses have put in the way of continuing on with an enriched life. Thomson told the Athens Foundation that sometimes patients see themselves as their diagnosis rather than a contributing member of society and that his organization provides them with a way to realize otherwise. "The nature of the arts is to challenge self-identity," he said, and by engaging in photography students are able to bring out parts of their persona they would have instead suppressed. He added that "it's fine art, but it's also answering a need."

A student and future mentor of the program Beth Klaus offered advice to those waiting to take classes. She said to never give up, adding that she never would have gotten as far with the program if she had. One of the most important successes she's had with the Athens Photographic Project include having new experiences. "It expands your horizons," she said. Involved since 2000, Klaus said that the classes "really started making [her] smile when [she] got her hands on the manual [camera]...and being in total control." She is ready for the challenge of becoming a mentor of the program.

Thomson reported that a major obstacle of the program has been keeping the program alive. State funding for mental health is being cut, causing programs like this one to suffer. He said there is a gap between being perceived as a community member and a mental health patient, and his ogranization is trying to bridge that gap. However, there is no lack of participation in the program. Twenty-five students are enrolled for the advanced class in the Fall, and 40 are on the waiting list. "We're looking at how we can continue to replicate the program model by pairing with other organizations and creating opportunities for visiting artists to lead classes," Thomson said. The grant the Project received in the Spring of 2009 is helping to fund these efforts.

Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative

For Michelle Ajamian and Brandon Jaeger, the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative is more important than simply growing hearty crops for the region.

Along with a desire to entice local farmers to grow staple crops, Operations Manager Brandon Jaeger told the Athens Foundation that it is also about working towards devloping a program to get this food to food banks for low-income families. These banks are normally places where people are getting the worst food commodity, but with help from the Collaborative they will be able to get the best food first. With this accomplished, families who were once unable to afford quality foods will have the opportunity to become more nutritious, allowing their health and children's school performance to improve.

The project is also determined to keep agricultural business in the Appalachian region. Jaeger also said that the resources farmers are growing are being exported elsewhere to be sold, in turn removing those profits from its home area. He says that developing a staple foods system will decrease this economic loss. June Holley of Networkweaving and also a partner of the Collaborative conducted several surveys of the region and reported that eight local food businesses in Athens are willing to buy staple foods that have been grown locally, providing support for Jaeger's claim.

Executive Director Michelle Ajamian believes their efforts will succeed simply because food is an entity that everyone needs. "[It's] a common denominator," she said, elaborating that food is a place where people can come together. "It's a strategy for changing the world."

The Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative received its grant in the Spring of 2009. The money is being used for what Jaeger calls "the unglamorous," such as crop handling and equipment. The project is also being funded by Rural Action and the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Leaders leading leaders: Leadership Athens County

In a world where the adage, "It's not what you know, it's who you know" is so commonly used, it makes sense for a foundation so committed to assisting its fellow do-gooders to provide a vehicle for improvement in this area. Leadership Athens County is a nine-month course that allows participants to network with each other while learning of the economic, political, social and cultural landscapes of the region. This opportunity for growth is so important in an area like Athens County because it not only provides an insider's view of the industries here but also of the diverse opportunities available to upcoming business professionals. Participation in this program will surely establish healthy relationships as well as furnish a solid understanding of the environment in which a flourishing industry is much needed.

Leadership Athens County meets one full weekday per month from October through May, with a two day retreat kicking off the year in September and an ending retreat in May. Tuition is $450 and scholarships are available. Applications are being accepted now through August 7 and are available online at Up to 20 applicants will be selected to participate. Contact Tina Thacker by phone at 740-597-1711 (office) or 614-557-8681 (cell), or by email with any questions.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Re-structuring the structure.

In a news update from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, I've discovered a facet of the non-profit world that is sometimes overlooked: social-justice grant making. This effort is geared more towards sparking a reform in the structures that provide jobs to the disadvantaged rather than simply providing aid, and foundations are taking greater strides in expanding this idea. Reading about this topic has caused me to become cognizant of the depth to which philanthropic work needs to reach.

As a non-profit, the Athens Foundation is focused on bettering the community in which it resides, plain and simple. And while this is an obvious and noble goal, it is sometimes difficult to see past the charitable actions and into the results they hope to produce: change for the future. An example of an organization dedicated to truly producing a change of this nature is the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative. This group has centered its efforts around providing rural farmers with the necessary tools they need to be successful in the agricultural world, and this characteristic is what sets it apart. Other groups that choose to donate - whether it be seeds to farmers or food to the homeless - are not educating their constituents on how to alter their positions in life, and this is what needs to happen if any true betterment is to come.

As our society becomes more focused on this new and hopeful idea of change, perhaps it is time for non-profits to focus more on social reform as a way to move closer to a world where all are capable of helping themselves rather than simply being helped.

Feel free to read the Chronicle of Philanthropy article at:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Former President encourages more philanthropic support for rural areas, appreciation from AF ensues

As an intern at the Athens Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing support to rural Athens, Ohio, it is pleasing to read that a prominent political figure realizes the need for more support in areas such as ours. An article in The Daily Tell, a publication that focuses on reporting good news rather than negative, featured a highlight on former President Bill Clinton who gave ideas for underdeveloped regions to receive more money. He said that there should be more options for philanthropists when it comes to donating time and money to rural parts of the country. This way, there are more diversified means of providing support.

During my time with this organization I have come to appreciate the way in which we assist the Athens community. Instead of simply giving money to any organization that is out to do good, we meticulously analyze how the money will be used and what the overall goal of the receiving organization is. Through the research I've done on the grantees and the interviews I've conducted, I have been fascinated by the creative methods organizations like Village Productions in Amesville and Kids on Campus here at Ohio University have employed to bring a better way of life to the underprivileged in Athens. Working closely with the people who are behind them has given a new life to the meaning of philanthropy, and I look forward to further educating myself on the diversified services that the Athens Foundation supports.

A link to the article referenced above can be found at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interview with Gary Goosman

Village Productions operates out of Amesville’s Grange Building. This building was originally erected to house a 150 year old social fraternity, the Grange organization. Its main goal was to be a venue for farmers to learn new farming techniques and to socialize with other members in the industry. The Grange organization is now a means for all community members to become familiar with each other, and Village Productions is utilizing this idea in their attempts to broaden the cultural horizons of its constituents.

Although it began as a dance studio, Village Productions became a non-profit organization in 2005 and since that transition, classes have extended beyond dance. Popular classes include yoga and theater for children, adults and senior citizens. In this video, Gary Goosman, the president of Village Production’s board of directors, discusses his goal to modernize the organization while allowing it to remain a social network for community members, and explains how he will utilize the grant money that the organization received from the Athens Foundation. Also in the video are clips from a djembe drumming class.

Summer 2009 Interns

This summer, the Athens Foundation will be joined by two public relations interns from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Maddie Stevens and Mary Quinn. They will be working on projects such as the newsletter, the web site and advancing social media efforts, as well as working closely with this year’s grantees.

In these videos, Maddie and Mary discuss their summer experience with the Athens Foundation.

Maddie chose to work with the Athens Foundation in order to learn about nonprofit organizations and their means of productivity. She has previous experience working as an intern for the American Red Cross in Boardman, Ohio and is considering pursuing a career with Limited Brands or participating in Teach for America. Maddie’s favorite thing about Athens is the welcoming atmosphere. “It feels like home to me, and I want to give back to the place that already has given me so much,” Maddie said.

Mary is looking to gain experience in her field through her time with the Athens Foundation. “I’m interested in doing PR for a nonprofit organization,” she said, and wants to partake in a career that allows her to help others. She also is excited about getting to know other Athens community members and learning more about the Foundation’s grantees. Mary has worked as an intern for the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board in Columbus, Ohio. She doesn’t have just one favorite part of Athens – she loves everything! “It’s so beautiful, and I enjoy becoming more involved in the community and seeing things beyond OU’s campus.”

The Athens Foundation is glad to be working with these two for the summer!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

How Funders Serving the Appalachian Region of Ohio are Responding to the Economic Crisis

A program for foundation and corporate funders Hosted by The Athens Foundation and the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation of Nelsonville in conjunction with Ohio Grantmakers Forum Tuesday, March 17, 2009 10 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
The Dairy Barn
8000 Dairy Lane
Athens, Ohio 45701
In recent months, many funders have witnessed dramatic decreases in the value of their assets, with losses of 30% and more in some cases. The economic crisis which brought this sudden and steep downturn has also fueled a surge in human need. Unemployment, hunger, homelessness and other social ills are on the rise. How are funders serving Appalachia responding to the crisis? What are they doing to accomplish their missions with dramatically fewer resources? You are invited to participate in a conversation for funders about today's challenging economic environment. You will hear the latest information about giving in Southeast Ohio and what the forecast looks like for grantmaking in 2009. Funders will share how they plan to help nonprofits and the community weather these tough times. In addition, exchange information, ideas and tactics with colleagues to better meet the needs of the communities you serve and support. Talk with your colleagues to develop opportunities for collaboration in the region! Presenter George Espy, president, Ohio Grantmakers Forum This program is free to funders. For more information visit

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thirteen Local Organizations Receive Grants

On December 9, 2008 at the Athens Foundation annual meeting the award of $33,190 was announced. The following local organizations received grants:
Appalachian Reading Council, Athens CASA/GAL, Athens County Food Pantry, ATCO, Inc./ Development Activity Center, ATCO Inc/Personnel Plus, City of Athens, Community Food Initiatives, Faith Believers Ministry (Feed My Sheep Food Pantry), NAMI Athens, Nelsonville Public Library, Trimble Elementary-Middle School, Village of Buchtel and My Sister's Place

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Women's Fund Fundraiser

The Women's Fund Fundraiser will be held on a Friday night in March 2009 (not Spring break) at the premiere private opening of Salaam Restaurant, 21 West Washington St., Athens. Reply today with a payment of $77 to assure your reservation for this limited seating event. RSVP: susan@athensfoundation

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Grant Application Deadline

The deadline to apply for spring grants is March 16, 2009. Click on the link for applications and more information. A grant writing workshop will be held Feb. 9, at 10 a.m. at the Athens Community Center, free of charge.
RSVP: Athens Foundation (740) 594-6061