Sojourner's Resiliency Center has sat mostly empty since the opening of its location on North Shafer Street until the launch of its Lunchbox Program, which offers free food and showers to those in need.
The Resiliency Center is a part of Sojourner’s Care Network, a program that works to create a community in which young persons are not seen as a problem but, instead, partners in creating a better community. All of the center’s programming follows one or more of its core basic outcomes: improving social/emotional health, increased access to education and employment, increased permanent connections and permanent housing.
“We choose to see the people that walk through our door as resilient,” Eryn Powell, the programming coordinator of the Resiliency Center, said, “As full of possibilities instead of as a nuisance or whatever people see young people as in the community when they’re not doing great.”
The center has offered many different programs since it has been open, such as a consent and safe sex program, a musical open house and a blood drive on March 3. The center remains open during the day from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m. in hopes of catching youth between the ages of 14 to 21 after work or after school.
The most recent program it has offered is the Lunchbox Program, which offers a chance to people of any age to come in for a hot shower and fill a grocery bag with needed food items. The Lunchbox Program occurs Fridays between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Some of the items available include baby formula, snack foods, rice and more. The center has stocked most of its food pantry using a grant, but it accepts all different kinds of donations.
“We’ve already had a few pretty great donations, (and) not just for the Lunchbox program,” Powell said. “Somebody donated a drum kit, and somebody donated a trumpet for our music program. It’s those little things, those little moments of the community interacting and the community showing through its actions that they’re interested in what this place could be. That means a lot.”
By bringing people of the community into the building, Sojourner’s hopes to cater to the community and adapt the space to Athens youth. The space is already filled with an area for video games and other activities.
To Ethan Brown, a freshman studying economics and sociology, the resiliency center is a needed place in the Athens community.
“I know (in) my sociology class, we’ve learned that Athens County is among a few hundred persistent poverty counties in the United States, and I never knew that coming here,” Brown said. “There’s this cycle, and I think a place like the resiliency center is important and needed everywhere. Especially in Athens, there’s a continuing need (for) that all the time.”
Even though Athens is known as a college town, there are many parts that have remained in need for years on end to some.
“I know that Athens is a very impoverished county,” Amanda Daro, a freshman studying entrepreneurship, said. “(This) would benefit the community for those in need.”
The center has only seen one person take advantage of the Lunchbox program, but that still makes it worth it in Powell’s eyes.
“I can’t even explain how good it’s been to have one person walk through the door,” Powell said. “I sit here every day and look at this space, and it’s pretty big. It ... bums me out because I can only ever see the possibility.”
For those interested in taking part in the Lunchbox Program, click here to sign up.