Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nelsonville's "cheerful" Family Center Tackles Poverty in Athens County

by Jessica Hurtt

First Lady Frances Strickland visited Nelsonville to address poverty issues in Athens County. She visited the Nelsonville Family Center, calling it "cheerful", and met with members of five different families from the Nelsonville area. Organized by the Family and Children First Council, the meetings were meant to provide families with an opportunity to talk with the First Lady about change and Athens MidDay reporter Whitney Scott was there to talk to her.

Mrs. Strickland talks education and poverty in Athens County.

After Mrs. Strickland met with parents, the Council held a round table discussion with approximately 20 representatives from a variey of agencies around southeastern Ohio. Represented in the discussion were Big Brothers Big Sisters, the County Commissioner's office, Athens County Job and Family Services, the Pregnancy Resource Center of Athens, Family and Children First Council, Athens County Children Services, and the juvenile court system, among others.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together people and agencies who could make a change. Policies dealing with poverty were discussed and the shortcomings of the system were addressed. Most people agreed the two biggest obstacles to overcoming poverty were funding and paperwork. Mrs. Strickland said as she meet with each family she heard the desire to make their lives better and move to the next level. In order to do that, she said, people need opportunities that provide bridges to that next level.

The 317 Board is an agency helping to fight alcohol abuse, drug addiction, and mental health issues. Poverty is not just a a set of physical circumstances in which a person deals with hunger or paying the bills. Poverty affects people's emotional lives as well. Mental health issues, especially depression, have a taxing effect in the lives of the poverty-stricken.

The Ohio Family and Children First Council was started to help prevent abuse in the home and enhance the well-being of Ohio's children and families.

The Nelsonville Family Center, located right off U.S. Route 33, provides a place for families to come to seek a sort of refuge. The center offers programs for girls and boys focused around building self esteem and creating a positive influence in their lives. The center takes in clothes and other non-monetary donations to help the people who use the facility. Every Friday the Clothing Center opens and families can come in to get clothes.

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