Athens, Ohio is a city built around Ohio University. Since the 1800s, the town has been growing in echo to the college. I landed here my final year of college and have chosen to linger a little longer. The local culture here is captivating to a young twenty-something desiring to explore a wide array of opportunities. Athens offers opportunities for educational growth, artistic expression, and spiritual exploration. It’s a colorful collection of characters with a place for anybody within the community.
Arriving in a new city with only one familiar face, I slowly slid into my slot amongst the colorful characters. Now having lived here for 17 months, I feel that I have created a stable network of peers and have gained a sense of the town. Athens is home to many local businesses such as Union Street Diner, Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, Wizard’s Guild, The Farmacy, Decorative Injections and more. These locally owned businesses represent a sense of unity and support amongst the people here. Shopping locally is a common practice and is growing in popularity. People helping and supporting each other is a value many in the community share.
Shopping locally is a common practice and is growing in popularity. A couple months ago on November 16, there was yet another fire in the uptown area. The fire affected six businesses, four owned by local Athenians, and all were sources of employment for close to a hundred residents. On the morning of the first snowfall, I grumbled about winter my friend informed me about the fire that was still blazing uptown. It all sank in as I arrived at work to find fellow employees of The Union Street Diner shuffling coffee and breakfast sandwiches to the displaced residents and emergency personnel. It was a tragedy
It was a tragedy, but in that moment, I knew that this unfortunate event was yet another opportunity for Athenians and OU Alumni to come together to help and support our community.
As done in the past, the local people and OU Alumni banded together in time of crisis. Many fundraising efforts began within hours of the fire. By Wednesday November 18, we had raised $32,000 using gofundme.com. As of this week, donations through this site are close to $50,000. There are several other forms of fundraising that are still generating relief for all those affected by the fire.
For example, the fundraising event, The Rise of The Phoenix was specifically coordinated to aid the reconstruction of The Union Bar and Grill’s upstairs concert venue. Bands and artists played on that stage, and I attended quite a few of the shows. The event created by Hil Hackworth consisted of 4 venues and 20 bands that raised almost $5,000. The reference of the Phoenix is a powerful image, meaning to rise from the ashes into a blaze of glory. Together we will build from these ashes and become new improved and better than before.
With the new year just beginning, many of us are thinking of ways we want to improve and become better than the year before. However, these resolutions should not be simple tasks to change our routine but rather steps to building a healthier and happier life. That is the purpose of this blog. Athens has opened my eyes to countless life lessons and they are echoed throughout the local culture. In life, we encounter struggles and moments of tragedy that seem to tear our lives apart. However, these are simply opportunities to exercise our strengths. Never be afraid to ask for help. As uptown Athens has repeatedly risen from the ashes of misfortune, we too should remember to be like the Phoenix.