Dec 10, 2010

Poor families can't afford more cuts in programs and services

Over the past 10 years, Ohio has slashed the budgets of programs to help poor people numerous times. State leaders have slowly but surely picked apart the programs and services that were intended to help poor families meet their basic needs and give them the opportunity to overcome their circumstances. Now, Ohio leaders are looking at more budget cuts in 2011, and poor families simply cannot afford any more cuts in programs or services. Click here to read more about the cuts in the last 10 years and why state leaders need to protect poor families in the next budget

Dec 1, 2010

Volunteers needed

The Athens County Fast and Free Tax Assistance Center at The Work Station in The Plains is looking for volunteers to work during tax season. The center offers free assistance to Athens County residents who are filing basic tax returns. Volunteers are needed to assist with the tax returns, answer phone calls, schedule appointments and greet visitors. Click here for more information on volunteering for this valuable program.

Nov 18, 2010

No increase in Social Security benefits means no increase in Ohio Works First cash assistance benefits

The fact that Social Security benefits are not increasing for the second straight year means that cash assistance benefits for Ohio’s poorest citizens are also staying the same for the second straight year. This is despite the fact that the cost of living is increasing in the state and the Ohio Works First benefits already do not provide enough funding to get a family up to even half of the federal poverty level. For more information, click here.

Nov 16, 2010

More and more people do not have enough money to buy the food they need

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that more than 17.4 million families in America, or 51 million people, were "food insecure" in 2009. In Ohio, nearly 680,000 families, or 14.8% of all families in the state, were food insecure in 2009, according to the report.

The report also explains that number of people in Ohio and all across the country who do not have enough food to eat has increased significantly in recent years.

Click here to read an article from The Washington Post about the report.

Click here to read an article from The Columbus Dispatch about the report, including detailed information about what the report says about food insecurity in Ohio.

Oct 26, 2010

Annual Report shows increasing demand for public assistance programs

The Athens County Job and Family Services 2009-2010 Annual Report details how the demand for public assistance has increased in Athens County in the last year, and in the last five years. The report also provides information on Athens County, our agency and the many different programs we run to help Athens County residents. Click here to read our Annual Report.

Oct 21, 2010

Donations made back-to-school time easier for local families

People from all across the country made going back to school a little easier for hundreds of area children this fall.

Each year, many local families struggle with all of the expenses involved in buying school supplies and back-to-school items for their children. In an effort to help these families, several food pantries, churches and community organizations in Athens County hand out free school supplies in August.

The Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Center in Lottridge is one place where school supplies are distributed each summer. The center receives local donations of school supplies, but it also receives donations from a unique group of supporters in Columbus. And this year, thanks to the publicity from the Dateline NBC program that featured Friends and Neighbors, school supply donations poured in from all across the country.

Patti Riordan, who lives in Columbus, volunteers her time every summer to pass out school supplies at the Friends and Neighbors center. She also organizes a donation drive in Columbus.
Riordan explained that when she or other volunteers see notebooks, backpacks, pencils or other back-to-school items on sale at stores close to their homes, they e-mail each other so that they can all go and buy large quantities of the items to take to Friends and Neighbors. Riordan and other volunteers then help pass out the materials to local families in need. This summer, Friends and Neighbors held two big back-to-school giveaway days in Lottridge in August, and the food pantry also held giveaway days at food pantries in Meigs and Washington counties.

At Lottridge, children, parents and grandparents all gathered at a special tent set up for the day and had the opportunity to pick up backpacks, paper, pencils, pens, glue and a wide rang of other items the children need for school. The families also had the opportunity to pick up free clothes to send their children back to school in.

“Mommy, this is fun. You don’t have to spend any of your money here,” one little girl told her mother as they were picking up items.

Many families are barely getting by and simply cannot afford the extra expenses involved with sending their children back to school, explained Lisa Roberts, director of the Friends and Neighbors. The donations from people in Athens County, Columbus, across the country and even internationally are all very much appreciated, and are all going to help people in need, Roberts said.

Angela Smith, a volunteer at Friends and Neighbors, added that she hopes people realize just how vital these donations are to families in need. “It is tremendously important,” Smith said.

Sep 29, 2010

1.75 million Ohioans now living in poverty

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than 1.75 million people in Ohio are now living in poverty. The Census figures also show that the number of people living in poverty in Ohio increased significantly from 2008 to 2009. Currently, 15.2% of all people in the state live below the poverty line. Poverty is a crisis in Ohio and in America, and it is time for our political leaders to take action to help these families in need. Click here to read more about the new poverty statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sep 27, 2010

Disaster relief assistance available for Athens County residents

The state of Ohio is making some funds available for households whose residences were affected by the recent severe weather in Athens County. For more information on who is eligible and how to apply, click here.

Sep 16, 2010

43.6 million Americans are living in poverty

New figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau today (Sept. 16, 2010) show that 43.6 million Americans are living in poverty. These new figures, which are for 2009, show an increase of nearly 4 million people over the number of people living in poverty in 2008. The Census figures also show that 15.5 million children under the age of 18 are living in poverty. This is an increase of 1.4 million children living in poverty in just one year. Click here to read more about the new Census figures.

Aug 20, 2010

New insurance program available for Ohio residents with pre-existing conditions

Ohio residents who have pre-existing medical conditions and have been turned down for health insurance coverage are being encouraged to apply with the new Ohio High Risk Pool. The Ohio High Risk Pool, which is being managed by Medical Mutual of Ohio, is designed to provide health insurance coverage to state residents who have pre-existing conditions. State residents must be without health insurance for six months or more before they are eligible to apply and they may not be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, Healthy Start or an employer-sponsored health insurance plan.

The Ohio High Risk Pool has two plans to choose from, as customers can choose the plan with the $1,500 deductible or the plan with the $2,500 deductible. The two plans do not have any sliding fees or income guidelines. The rates are determined solely by which plan is chosen, the customer’s age, where the customer lives and if the customer is a smoker. Monthly rates for Athens County residents range from $92 to $665. A 23-year-old Athens County resident who does not smoke and chooses the plan with the $2,500 deductible, for example, would pay $124 per month. A 57-year-old Athens County resident who does not smoke but chooses the plan with the $1,500 deductible would pay $425 per month.

Applicants to the program must provide written documentation of the pre-existing condition from a physician or nurse practitioner, evidence of denial of health insurance coverage by two insurance providers, proof of residency in Ohio and proof of citizenship. The federal government’s healthcare reform program requires each state to have a high-risk insurance pool, and the health insurance coverage in Ohio from the Ohio Risk Pool will begin on Sept. 1. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing funding for the program, but funding is limited so interested area residents are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. For more information, call 1-877-730-1117 or log onto

Aug 19, 2010

August is Child Support Awareness Month

August is National Child Support Awareness Month, and it is a good time to remember that child support does not just mean financial support, but emotional support as well.

Each year, National Child Support Awareness Month is held to raise awareness about the importance of child support programs. These programs are designed to help provide children with the opportunity for a better life. Research shows that children who grow up with emotional and financial support from both parents become more productive. The theme for this year is “Throughout life, support matters.”

The Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency plays an important role in the lives of thousands of Athens County children. Each year, the agency collects approximately $4.4 million in support payments for more than 10,000 children. Most parents who are obligated to pay child support do so without any problems. In fact, the Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency is only actively involved with a very small percent of the child support cases in the county. The Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency thanks those parents who put their children first.

In addition to providing financial support, all parents are also strongly encouraged to provide emotional support by being involved in their children’s lives, engaging them in conversation and remaining active with them no matter how old they are. For more information on the Athens County Child Support Enforcement Agency, call 593-5046 or 1-800-436-8933 or send an e-mail to

Aug 17, 2010

Program provides daily meals for hundreds of local children

Each year, more and more children in Athens County and across Ohio benefit from the free and reduced lunch programs at the public schools. During the summer months, though, many families do not have enough money to pay for all of the meals for their children, so summer feeding programs spring up across the region. One of the largest programs of this kind in Athens County is run by the Nelsonville Community Center.

The center, which is staffed completely by volunteers, is led by Rhonda Bentley. She explained that every Monday through Friday in the summer, community center volunteers served breakfast and lunch to children at the park next to the city pool. Breakfast was served from 9-10 a.m., and it usually drew around 100 children. Lunch was served from 1-2 p.m., and often drew around 300. In a city of around 5,000 people, it is stunning to have that many children showing up for free lunches every day.

“It’s amazing to me, too,” Rhonda said. Many of the children are at the city pool on the hot summer days, and then they walk to the park for the free lunches. Their families may be able to find the money to get the children in the pool, but without this program many of the children would not have had money for lunch, Rhonda said.

Many of the children also come to the park just for the lunches. Some show up early and wait, and some pick up their lunches and take them home or to wherever they are playing that day. On rainy days when people are not swimming, the Nelsonville Community Center still passes out more than 160 free lunches.

Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action provides the food for the breakfast and lunch programs. The meals are all very basic, with lunches made up of items such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, turkey and cheese sandwiches, apples, raisins, celery and peanut butter. The breakfast meals include items such as cereal, fruit, milk and bagels.

The Nelsonville Community Center also offers after-school programs, clubs for children to join, and other activities. The center is a safe and warm place where children of all ages can gather after school and in the summer.

The center also offers programming for adults, a free community lunch on Fridays, free clothing and other items, and furniture sold for very low prices. The center accepts donated furniture, and then sells the furniture items in order to help pay the utility bills for the building. There are no income limits on purchasing the furniture.

“We’d like everyone to come in. We need to sell as much furniture as possible in order to pay the bills,” Rhonda said.

Aug 9, 2010

Federal leaders respond to Dateline NBC report by cutting food assistance benefits to the poor

President Obama and Congress are slashing food assistance benefits for our poorest citizens.

After Dateline NBC aired a special report on poverty in America recently, many people were waiting to see what the response would be from our country’s leaders.

The national news program showed people standing in lines for food, explained how people at the Friends and Neighbors Community Choice Food Center in Lottridge were sending messages on paper plates to The White House asking for help, and told the stories of several families who, just like families all across America, are struggling to meet their basic needs of food and shelter. The response from Congress and The White House was clear and it was shocking, as they chose to cut food benefits for the poor at a time when it is clear that food stamps are not meeting the needs of our country’s families.

“This is shameless,” said Jack Frech, Athens County Job and Family Services director. “This is how our leaders are answering these pleas for help, by taking food away from poor families who already do not have enough food to make it through the month. If the President and Congress feel there is somehow ‘extra’ money in the food stamp program, they need to expand benefits and eligibility rules so that families do not have to depend on food pantries to feed their children.”

The U.S. Senate has already approved a bill to cut food benefits to the poor, and the U.S House of Representatives will soon be voting on this bill as well. Advocates for the poor all across the country are speaking out against this bill, and Athens County Job and Family Services also strongly opposes it. Below are links to additional articles about the proposed legislation.

Jul 26, 2010

Dateline NBC special focuses on poverty in southern Ohio

Dateline NBC’s Sunday, July 25 program provided a look at the many challenges facing people living in poverty today. The program featured several people from Athens County and southeastern Ohio who have a very difficult time just meeting their basic needs of food and shelter. We appreciate that Dateline NBC chose to come to Athens County in order to show people around the country how the poor have been hurt by the country’s economic downturn.

The stories shown on Dateline NBC are heartbreaking, as the people interviewed face numerous obstacles and are in nearly impossible situations.

What is even more heartbreaking, though, is that there are countless other people in Athens County, in southeastern Ohio and all across the country who are facing similar economic hardships and despair. People all across America are living in poverty and facing numerous challenges that make it nearly impossible to improve their financial situations.

We appreciate how people like Lisa Roberts and Rhonda Bentley are doing so much in Athens County to help those who are living in need. At the same time, people should not have to wait in lines for food. Our country’s cash assistance and food assistance programs need to provide adequate assistance so that people are able go to grocery stores and buy their own food for their own homes.

The Dateline NBC program is posted on the Dateline NBC website, which is located at The website also features additional footage that did not make it into the program from people around southeastern Ohio.

If you would like to contact the Friends and Neighbors Community Food Center and/or its director, Lisa Roberts, call 877-223-7161 or log onto

If you would like to contact Rhonda Bentley and the Nelsonville Community Center, call (740) 753-4100.

If you would like to contact the Second Harvest Foodbank in Logan, call (740) 385-6813 or (800) 385-6813.

Jul 14, 2010

Participants in the Subsidized Summer Youth Employment Program are thankful for their jobs

Amanda Pickering, 24, of Glouster, and Katlyn Jenkins, 14, of Glouster, are both working in the Athens County Subsidized Summer Youth Employment Program and enjoying the experience.

“I love it,” said Jenkins, who is working with the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) at the Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action Program (HAPCAP). In her job, she takes calls, makes reports, sends faxes and assists with office work. “I’ve learned a lot,” Jenkins said.

Pickering, meanwhile, works for HAPCAP’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs and has been doing jobs like making fliers, copying papers, planning a movie day for children and working on different projects.

“I love kids,” she said, explaining some of the reasons she likes her job. She also enjoys office work, and said she has done this type of work before.

“I’m always doing something. I’m never just sitting around,” Pickering added. “My days go by very quickly.” As a parent, the pay is also very important for her to help care for her family. Pickering said she has worked since she was 15 years old, and she is thankful to have this job now.

Jenkins added that the educational workshops and seminars that are part of the summer employment program have also been important. She has attended discussions on topics such as sexual harassment and taxes, and said they have been very informative. She is also thankful that the program provides funding to pay for the gas it takes to drive to and from work every day, and also provides lunches for the employees. The job coaches have also been a key part of the program, as they provide assistance and guidance with the work the participants are doing.

“They help a lot,” Jenkins said.

Jul 8, 2010

Program provides summer jobs for teenagers and young adults

Nearly 140 local teenagers and young adults are gaining work experience, taking part in educational programs and earning a steady paycheck this summer through The Athens County Subsidized Summer Youth Employment Program. The program, which is being run by Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action Program (HAPCAP) and Athens County Job and Family Services, is funded through the federal government’s economic stimulus package.

The employment program is providing summer jobs to 138 Athens County residents between the ages of 14-24. All positions have been filled and there is a waiting list for any positions that open up during the summer. The program's 40 work sites all across the county provide jobs in fields such as the arts, animal care, building and grounds maintenance, community and social services, education, library science, and office and administration support.

“HAPCAP is very excited to be a partner in this program. Many participants in the program have demonstrated initiative, motivation and pride to be working in the communities in which they live. For some, this is their first job and it is rewarding to see how they are developing work and life skills that they can take with them for their rest of their lives. Others are building on previous work experiences while helping to support their families,” said Jessica Stroh, employment and economic development director for HAPCAP. The employment program has received excellent support from the participants and their family members, and from the work sites and businesses that are working with the program, Stroh added.

Nickie Bailes, who lives near Coolville, is working as a job coach for the program and said it has been a good experience for her and for the young adults she works with. The young adults have all been working hard at their jobs and they are learning a great deal, she said.

“Having a job and having this responsibility is really helpful for them,” Bailes added. “A lot of them want to continue working.” She has also seen the participants become more motivated with their work throughout the summer.

For Bailes, serving as a job coach has been a good learning experience that will also be another positive item for her resume.

“I like it,” she said about serving as a job coach. “It gives you the opportunity to solve problems from a different angle.”

Additional posts will feature comments from several of the program participants

Jun 30, 2010

Program helps area residents buy food items at half of the normal price

A relatively new food program for Athens County allows area residents to purchase food products for roughly half of the normal price. The food program is the national Angel Food Ministry program, and it is being run locally by Abundant Life Church of Athens. The program accepts Food Assistance Benefits cards, but there are no income limits.

“It’s a great way for people to stretch their food dollars,” said Bob Gall, minister for Abundant Life Church. Anyone can use the food program, and Gall is hoping that more area residents will take advantage of it. Here is how it works:

Area residents order food boxes once a month on-line or at the church on designated days. The program offers several different types of food boxes at different prices. One popular box, for example, provides $60 worth of food, but it only costs participants $30. Angel Food Ministries, which is based in Georgia, buys the food products in bulk and takes orders from churches all across the country. Because they are purchasing in bulk, they are able to order the food for low prices that are then passed on to the consumers.

Area residents choose the boxes they want to order, and they are able to purchase as many as they like. The food items are distributed once each month at the church, usually on the third Friday of the month. Participants are asked to bring boxes, bags or laundry baskets with them to place their food items in, to make it easier to carry them home. The food items can be sold at low prices because both Angel Food Ministries and the Abundant Life Church are not trying to make a profit, they are just trying to distribute food.

“To me, this is just a no-lose situation,” Gall said. Response to the program has been good so far at the Abundant Life Church, but Gall is hoping that many more people will learn about the program and use it. Abundant Life Church is located at 9365 Hooper Road, which is near U.S. Rt. 50/Ohio Rt. 32. For more information on the program, call the church at 593-7500 or log onto the website, located at

Jun 16, 2010

Athens Farmers Market leads the way

The Athens Farmers Market leads all farmers markets in Ohio in the number of customers it serves who are receiving Food Assistance Program benefits. And this summer, the Athens Farmers Market is offering extra incentives to customers who use their Food Assistance benefits to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at the market. Click here to read more about how the Athens Farmers Market has made it easy for area residents to use their Food Assistance benefits to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables.

Jun 14, 2010

Additional comments from the Athens County ABLE program graduation ceremony

The Athens County Adult Basic Literacy and Education (ABLE) program at The Work Station held its annual GED graduation ceremony on Friday, June 4 at Chauncey Elementary School. Several of the graduates talked after the ceremony about how the program has helped them and about what their plans are now.

Michelle Strong, 19, of Nelsonville, was not able to graduate from her high school because of a problem with her credit hours, so she enrolled in the GED program to finish. She earned her GED in 2009, the same year that she would have graduated from high school, and enjoyed working with the teachers and other students in the GED program.

“I thought it was really awesome,” Strong said. She plans to continue her education in college and may study early childhood education.

David Riddle, 21, of Grove City, was just a few credits short of graduating from high school when he dropped out so that he could work and earn money for his family. He and his wife and son moved to southern Ohio for a time, and Riddle tried to get by without going back to school and getting his degree.

“I just lacked the motivation,” he said. Being a father has made him more responsible, and he knew that he needed to go back to school and earn his GED so that he would be able to get better jobs and be better able to support his family. “I think it will open a lot of doors for me,” he said.

Cristy James, 53, of Nelsonville, decided to earn her GED in order to improve her job prospects. She plans to now continue her education at the Tri-County Career Center. James was originally nervous about going back to school, but she knew it was important that she earn her GED.

“It was hard,” she said about first going back. The staff at The Work Station helped her a great deal, and she enjoyed the GED program. “I liked it. It really helped me,” James said.

Shandi Kincaid, 21, of Bainbridge also decided to earn her GED in order to improve her job opportunities.

“I need a better job and no one will hire me without an education,” Kincaid said. She hopes to eventually work in human resources management, and is thankful for all of the assistance she received from the ABLE program.

“It was a really good program,” Kincaid said. “They really helped me a lot.” After the ceremony, the graduates and their family members and friends were treated to dinner and a performance by the Back Porch Swing Band. Also, local musician Bob Montalto played the piano before and during the graduation ceremony.

Click here for more photos from the ceremony

Jun 10, 2010

Athens County graduates honored at ceremony

The Adult Basic and Literacy Education (ABLE) GED Graduation Ceremony for Athens County was a relatively small and quiet event, but the June 4 celebration was a monumental occasion that marked a major accomplishment in the lives of the graduates and their families.

Around 70 people earned their GEDs in the Athens County program during the 2009-2010 school year, and 11 of the graduates took part in the commencement ceremony inside the Chauncey Elementary School gymnasium. One of the graduates was Nekisha Singer, who gave one of the two main speeches during the event. Singer, who became emotional several times during her remarks, explained that she dropped out of high school after she became pregnant at the age of 16.
“I knew I had to grow up quickly,” she said. Singer was told several times when she was younger that she had a learning disability, and she explained that school was frustrating for her at times. She decided to go back to school in the last year to earn her GED for her family and for herself.

“To prove to myself that I am no different and that I can do whatever I put my mind to,” Singer said. She thanked ABLE teachers Scott Hatfield and Candy Byron for all of their assistance, and said she hopes they understand how big of an impact they have had on her life. She also thanked her family members and friends for their support.

“Thank you all for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” Singer said. She told the other graduates that they should be proud of their accomplishments and that they should also share their stories of the GED program with other people in the community.

“Inspire them to go back to school and realize their hopes and dreams,” said Singer. She will now continue her education at Columbus State Community College.
“I know that the sky is the limit for me and for all of my fellow graduates,” Singer said.

Graduate Alicia Hale also gave a few remarks, and explained that she decided to go back to school to earn her GED for one main reason.
“I did it for my three little boys,” Hale said. She thanked her family and friends, as well as the staff at The Work Station for their support, and said that she also plans to now go to college.

Jun 9, 2010

Employer Awareness Workshop to be held at The Work Station

All local employers are invited to an Employer Awareness Workshop that will be held at The Work Station on Thursday, June 24 from 1-3 p.m. The workshop will focus on the subject of hiring ex-offenders. Click here to read more about the event.

Jun 3, 2010

Ohio families encouraged to apply for Medicaid

The state of Ohio is encouraging all eligible families to sign up for Medicaid and has made it easier for families to enroll in the health care program more quickly. Click here to read about the changes to the Medicaid program.

May 28, 2010

Survey on poverty-related issues now posted online

An Ohio University class surveyed voters across the state earlier this year about their opinions on poverty and found that Ohioans want state leaders do more to help the poor. At the same time, though, Ohio residents differ in their opinions on how best to help the poor, according to the survey results. The survey asked Ohio residents about a wide range of issues related to poverty in Ohio. Click here to read the survey.

May 27, 2010

New summer employment program for Athens County residents between the ages of 14-24 now taking applications

The Subsidized Summer Employment Program For Youth is funded through the U.S. government’s stimulus package and will provide job opportunities and learning programs for the participants.

In order to be eligible for the program, participants must be Athens County residents between the ages of 14-24 and live in families who have an income at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. In addition, the participants must live in families who have children in the household who are under the age of 18 (or 19 if the child is still in high school), be a non-custodial parent who is cooperating with the child support enforcement agency, or be pregnant.

All jobs are anticipated to begin in mid-June and be finished by the end of August. All positions pay $8 per hour, and there may be special educational programming for the participants. The participants will work up to 40 hours per week at locations all across Athens County.

Click here for an application, or pick up an application at any of the Athens County Job and Family Services offices, located at 184 N. Lancaster St. in Athens, 99 Connett Road in The Plains, The Athens County Home building on Ohio Rt. 13 between Athens and Chauncey, and The Work Station at 70 N. Plains Road in The Plains. For more information on this program call 797-2523 or click here.

May 26, 2010

Survey examines Ohio residents opinions on poverty-related issues

An Ohio University class surveyed Ohio voters about their opinions on poverty-related issues recently and found some very interesting results.

Representatives from the class, as well as representatives from Athens County Job and Family Services, will discuss the survey results at a Friday, May 28 press conference held at noon in Ohio University's Lasher Hall. Click here to read more about the survey and the press conference.

May 24, 2010

Life after prison can be very challenging

Click here to read about Dale, an Athens County resident adjusting to life after prison. It can be very difficult for ex-offenders to transition back into society, as many owe large sums of money in court costs and fines, many do not have their driver's licenses, many are unable to work in certain fields because of their felony convictions, and many face numerous other problems. Dale is facing several significant obstacles, but he is happy and is doing his best to live a normal life.

May 20, 2010

Director honored at Social Justice Awards ceremony in Athens

Athens County Job and Family Services Director Jack Frech received the Kuhre Griesinger Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 UCM Social Justice Awards ceremony in Athens recently.

Click here to read more about the awards ceremony and the other Athens area individuals and organizations honored during the evening.

May 10, 2010

College degrees will open new doors for Athens County couple

Click here to read about Nickie and Jerrod, an Athens County couple with one son. State budget cuts cost Jerrod his job, so now Nickie and Jerrod are both going to college so that they can find secure jobs that they enjoy. They go to school and work, and they also receive some assistance to help them get by. They know that they won't need the help for long, though, and that soon they will be starting new careers.

May 7, 2010

Transportation is a major barrier for many in southeast Ohio who are looking for work

Emily Ax works with a jobs program at the Good Works Shelter in Athens, where she helps area residents receive job training and find work. She attended the April 21 Job Fair in Athens and said that it was a good opportunity for area residents to make face-to-face contacts with local employers. She was a little disappointed that a few of the employers who planned to be there could not attend, but overall she was pleased with the event.

In her job at the homeless shelter, she sees several challenges for people trying to find work in southeast Ohio, and she explained that transportation is a major barrier for many people.

“Transportation is always an issue,” she said. Many people have the skills and training needed to work in different jobs, but the jobs in their fields are not available here or they do not have reliable transportation to get to work every day.

“I am grateful that there is a small transit system in Athens,” Ax said, adding that it is a big plus that the bus system travels to The Plains as well. If the public transportation system could ever be expanded in Athens County, it would be very helpful for many people, she said.

People in southeast Ohio will take jobs outside of their main skills or the fields they want to work in, simply because they need the work and the pay, Ax said. If they can find work in their fields, though, it is very uplifting for them.

May 5, 2010

More comments from area residents at the recent Job Fair in Athens

Christian Thomas works part-time in Athens County and is looking for full-time work. He has experience in many different fields and hopes that someone will give him a chance to get started on a career.

“To me, a job is different from a career,” Thomas said. A job is something you do for a while to pay the bills, while a career is working for a long time in one field that you enjoy, Thomas said. He talked to representatives from several different companies at the job fair, and is open to working in many different types of jobs. He is a quick learner, and hopes to find steady work and a new career that he enjoys.

“I like helping people,” Thomas said. It is a struggle now to pay all of his expenses, but Thomas said he is not discouraged that that money is tight right now. He expects to have to overcome challenges in life and is hopeful that he will be able to secure a full-time job and a steady income soon.

Justin Shields of Athens earned a degree in information technology in 2009 and has not been able to find work in that field yet. In the meantime, he has been working on his parent’s farm, but he wants to find a job soon working with computers.

“I need to start paying off my student loans,” Shields said. He had not been to a job fair before, and said it was helpful to be able to talk to the representatives from different companies at the Athens event.

He is hoping to find a job where he can use his creativity and computer skills, and said that he knows that he can be an asset to any company that hires him. He would like to also do consulting work for businesses and show them how they can use their computers more efficiently in order to save time and money.

May 3, 2010

Additional comments from area residents at the April 21 Job Fair held in Athens

Eric Heck of Athens has worked for several years for a local company, and enjoys the job. His company has been hurt by the country’s economic downturn, though, and has had to reduce its costs in the last few years. Because of the company’s need to cut back, Heck was laid off for a few months beginning in December 2008 and then was laid off again in December 2009.

“It is discouraging,” Heck said. He worked for the U.S. Census Bureau for a few weeks in 2009 and will be working for the U.S. Census Bureau again this summer. After that, he is hoping to get called back to his original job, but he does not know if that will happen or not.

He is trying to find steady, full-time work, and turned in a few resumes and applications to companies represented at the Job Fair, but he has not found anything yet. He is concerned about his job prospects, but is hopeful he will be working full-time again soon.

Meigs County resident Lora Langdon worked in home health care for 10 years, but had to stop working in that field because of an injury. She went back to school and earned a degree to work as a medical office assistant, but has not found job in that field yet.

While she is looking for a full-time job, she is working a service industry job in order to help pay the bills. Langdon needs a full-time position, though, where she can earn more money. If she can’t find work as a medical office assistant, she will consider going back to work in home health care in spite of her injury, simply because she needs the work and because there are jobs available in this field. She said she was happy to be able to talk to a few employers at the job fair, and added that she also picked up a few job applications for one of her relatives.

Apr 30, 2010

Job Fair attracts more than 500 people looking for work

More than 500 people attended the Area 14 One Stop Job, Career and Information Fair in Athens on April 21, and several of the job seekers talked about how the country’s economic problems have hurt their job prospects.

Robert Boggs of Athens explained that he currently works in manufacturing, but the work is only part-time and the hours and pay vary greatly. Business has been slow lately for the company he works for, so his hours and pay have been reduced.

“The economy is down,” Boggs said. He would like to work full-time in a factory, but there aren’t many of those jobs in the region. He applied for a few jobs with factories at the Job Fair, and said he was pleased with the different employers he was able to visit.

Boggs explained that he does not want to work in a service industry job that deals with the public, but he has applied for a few of these jobs recently because he needs the work.

“I’d rather just put my head down and work all day making things,” Boggs said. It has been discouraging to not be able to find a full-time job, and it has been hard on him financially, too.

“It’s pretty rough,” Boggs said. “I’m about ready to move back to the city.” He used to live and work in Chicago, but moved to Athens to help take care of a sick relative. He likes living here, but will have to move soon if he can’t find steady work.

Boggs is just one of many people at the Job Fair who talked about how they lost their jobs because of layoffs, health problems or other reasons, or how they have had trouble finding work after graduating from high school or college. Over the next week, we will post additional comments from several of these people.

Sarah Williams represented one employer at the Job Fair, as she worked in the booth for Bellisio Foods of Jackson. Bellisio Foods is currently hiring for several different positions working in the company’s plant, and Williams said she talked with many different people who were looking for work at the job fair. She was pleased that she was able to talk to so many potential employees, and said the Athens job fair is a very good event.

“It is so organized,” Johnson said.

Laurel Lindamood and Lindsay Mayle represented Diagnostic Hybrids, Inc., of Athens at the Job Fair, and they also said it was a good opportunity to talk to a large number of potential employees. At the 2009 job fair, their company had open positions that they were able to talk to area residents about, but this year they did not have any open positions. Lindamood and Mayle did talk to several people who are interested in working for the company when positions do come open, and they were able to explain more about the work the company does. They also told people to watch their Web site, for information on job openings and how to apply.

Apr 22, 2010

Earning her GED, planning for college and building a better life for her daughter

Erica is overcoming some substantial barriers in order to provide for a better life for her daughter, and she has big plans for her future.

Erica, who is 21, lives in Nelsonville with her two-year-old daughter. Her life is not easy and she does not have enough money to pay all of her bills each month, but she’s doing whatever she can to get by and become more independent.

Erica dropped out of school when she was in high school, and that decision has made life tough for her.

“It was a stupid mistake,” she said about leaving school. She was not able to get a good job because she did not have her high school diploma, and she said it is degrading to be labeled as a “high school dropout.”

She ended up enrolling in the Adult Basic Literacy Education (ABLE) program at The Work Station in The Plains, and recently passed her GED test. She is very happy to have her degree, and plans on taking part in the ABLE graduation ceremony in June. The ceremony is for all of the students who have received their GEDs in the last year, and it is always an emotional and inspirational event.

It took a lot of work to prepare for the GED test, but Erica has enjoyed her time in the ABLE program and now wants to study psychology at Hocking College. Her first priority is to get a job, though, and to become more independent. Currently, she and her daughter receive $365 per month in Ohio Works First cash assistance, in addition to receiving Food Assistance Program benefits and medical benefits.

Her rent is $300 per month, and that takes nearly all of the cash assistance each month. Her boyfriend and mother help pay her utility bills and some food expenses, so Erica has $65 each month to pay for diapers and clothing for her daughter, and extra expenses that arise.

“I can’t buy anything,” she said. She is hoping that all of that will change when she gets a job, and she knows that she is on the right path. She took the first step when she enrolled in the ABLE program, and another giant step when she earned her GED.

Erica is smart and has a great attitude, and she is motivated to build a better life for her daughter. In time, she’ll get to where she wants to go in life, she just needs the assistance she is receiving now in order to help her on her way.

Apr 9, 2010

Applications now available for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program

Athens County senior citizens who meet certain income requirements can now apply for coupons worth up to $50 to be used at the Athens Farmers Market. Click here to read more about the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program and to find out how to apply.

Mar 30, 2010

Make sure to fill out your U.S. Census form

Most Athens County residents should have already received their 2010 U.S. Census forms and many have sent the forms back in already. It is extremely important that all Athens County residents are counted in the Census. Anyone with questions about the Census can visit the U.S. Census Bureau's Question Assistance Center at The Work Station in The Plains or visit the other Question Assistance Centers in Athens County. Click here for more information on the 2010 U.S. Census count in Athens County.

Mar 19, 2010

Working to earn her education, and to help build a better life for her family

Wendy has always enjoyed working, but she lost her most recent job when she was pregnant with her fourth child and had to stop working because of complications with the pregnancy. Her family has gotten by living on just her husband's income, but money has been tight and it has been difficult at times. Wendy is going back to school now and is on track to earn an accounting degree in the spring. She is excited about starting a new career and helping to build a new life for her family.
Click here to read her story.

Mar 2, 2010

Free public defense is no longer free in Ohio

How would you feel if you had to pay $25 to prove that you are poor?
It happens every day in Ohio when indigent defendants are forced to pay an application fee in order to apply for public defenders.
This fee is another tax on poor people put into place in order to allow the state to reduce the amount it pays for public defense. In addition, the application fee has numerous problems associated with it, including the fact that it is enforced differently in each county, it places judges and public defenders in awkward positions and it is levied on people who have not been convicted of anything. An extra $25 can be very difficult for many people in Ohio to afford, even if they desperately need it in order to pay for the public defense that they are supposed to receive for free.
Athens County Job and Family Services has drafted a report on this fee and examined how it is collected in each county in Ohio. The report shows how the state has collected more than $6 million through this fee since 2005, all from people who are being forced to pay $25 just to prove they are poor.
The report is being sent to Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Ohios legislative leaders to ask them to eliminate this tax on poor people. All Ohio residents are also asked to contact their legislators and encourage them to eliminate this fee.
Click here to read the report.

Feb 23, 2010

Census forms to be sent out in March

All U.S. residents should receive their 2010 U.S. Census forms in March. In Athens County, some residents in the Glouster and Coolville areas will receive their forms in the first week of March, while the rest of the county residents will receive theirs in mid-March. Also in March, the U.S. Census Bureau will be setting up locations in Athens County where people can go to ask questions about the Census and receive additional forms. For more information on these locations or on the importance of the upcoming U.S. Census count, click here. To log onto the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site for information on the 2010 Census Count, click here.

Feb 10, 2010

Columnist looks at how the national recession is affecting the poor

New York Times Columnist Bob Herbert wrote an outstanding column recently that points out that while politicians and the national media focus on how the national recession is affecting the upper and middle classes, the poorest Americans are the ones who have been hit hardest. Click here to read the column.

Feb 2, 2010

Columnist looks at how the poor are viewed in America

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr., wrote an outstanding column recently discussing issues such as why no one speaks out for the poor and how people living in poverty are often powerless and misunderstood. Click here to read the column on the Miami Herald Web site.

Jan 22, 2010

Census Road Tour Stops in Athens County

The 2010 Census Road Tour stopped in Athens County recently to promote the April 1 U.S. Census Count and to provide information for people who are interested in working for the U.S. Census Bureau. The Road Tour is traveling around the country spreading the message about how important it is to be counted and how filling out the Census form helps your local community.

In Athens County, the Road Tour stopped at Ohio University and Hocking College on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Click here to read an article from The Athens NEWS about the Census Road Tour.
Click here to read the Athens MidDay article and watch one interview about the Census Road Tour. (Click on the link on the right side of the Athens MidDay page, or scroll down to see the article).
Click here to read the news release about the event.