Senate sponsors food baskets for needy families

Student Senate and other student organizations are putting together 10 Thanksgiving baskets such as this one, provided by Giles Allen, Student Senate commissioner for State and Federal Affairs. The baskets will be donated to needy families in Athens County this Thanksgiving. (Erin Corneliussen | Multimedia Editor)

Though not originally from Southeast Ohio, Darius Jenkins knew he wanted to make a difference in the area during his first year at Ohio University.

After transferring to OU from Tennessee State University, Jenkins, a senior from Cincinnati studying journalism, recognized a need for community outreach in one of Ohio’s most impoverished counties.

“I’m a family-oriented person, and holidays are really big with my family,” Jenkins said. “I couldn’t imagine going to Thanksgiving or Christmas, especially Thanksgiving, with a big meal, without the necessities of those holidays.”

To put Jenkins’ words to work, Student Senate’s Black Affairs Commission collected 10 baskets to donate to Athens County families in need this Thanksgiving, who are finding aid from short-term local residents.

The project, which initially had lofty goals, had to be downsized because of a lack of support but will become an annual event following this year, said Seaira Chrissitian-Daniels, a junior and Student Senate’s  Black Affairs Commissioner.

“It started out as this huge project,” she said. “(We) wanted to do a ton of baskets, and we weren’t able to do as many as we would have liked, but every little bit counts.”
Christian-Daniels said she originally hoped to collect about 40 baskets for local families, but after realizing the difficulty of gathering supplies, lowered the goal to 10 baskets.

Student Senate donated five baskets, and additional baskets came from the Black Student Union, the Black Student Cultural Programming Board, Wilson and Bromley Hall councils, and Omicron Delta Kappa.

Each basket consists of a turkey, two larger sides such as mashed potatoes or a vegetable, bread, juice and a desert. The baskets amount to less than $50 in items, Christian-Daniels said.

“You don’t want to give someone a meal and then they don’t have enough to spread around their family,” she said. “We wanted it to be enough so each family didn’t have to worry about rationing out the food.”

The baskets will be picked up Tuesday by Athens County Job and Family Services and taken to families in need, Christian-Daniels said.

Student Senate President Zach George is glad to see members of the organization take action to help one of “the poorest regions in Ohio and the nation,” a region he says OU plays a key role in. 

“As we return to our homes for the Thanksgiving holiday to eat and be with friends and family, this is just a small gesture in order to help those in the surrounding community have a more traditional Thanksgiving,” George said. 

To improve this event for the future, Christian-Daniels said she plans to be more “in students’ faces” about giving a basket and hopes to get more campus organizations involved, adding that each basket shouldn’t cost students very much to put together.

“No one has really addressed poverty in Athens,” Christian-Daniels said. “People are really just hopeless. They don’t think that people can hear them.”

Connecting the student body to local residents in order to make a difference is a primary goal for both Jenkins and Christian-Daniels during their time at OU and is close to Jenkins’ heart.

“My biggest fear in life is waking up and not having a purpose, so every day, I try to wake up and figure out what my purpose is,” Jenkins said. “Those purposes change every day, but definitely going towards community outreach.”

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