Editor’s note: This is an admittedly odd title for an article that is anything but. The Mayor was out of town for a much needed brief break, so Holly Hollman, who is in charge of communications for the Mayor’s office, gave me a bunch of information about a number of things occurring in Athens. They range from the City’s fight with facebook to yet more creative ways to procure chocolate for one’s sweetie or self. Her comments are in standard type, mine are in italics.
Technical issues with city’s Facebook page
In an effort to keep citizens informed, the city has utilized Facebook, Twitter, Nixle and a city website to offer many avenues for citizens to gather information. Unfortunately, Facebook has removed the city's rights to administer its "City of Athens, Alabama" Facebook page. The page has nearly 2,000 followers, and this concerns the city since these followers refer to Facebook during severe weather for updates on power outages, road closures, weather updates and other information.
If a user tries to pull up the "City of Athens, Alabama" page, the user will not see a timeline, only a box with general info and a place to add a profile photo. The page should have a timeline, the city's logo for its profile picture and the courthouse as its cover photo.
An email sent from Facebook on Tuesday to the city only states that there is a list of reasons why the page may have been deemed in violation of Facebook guidelines. The email states this could be attributed to someone hacking the Facebook page, the page's administrators not being authorized representatives, the page infringing on intellectual property rights, or the page name being too generic.
The city has had the "City of Athens, Alabama" Facebook page since October 2011, and has never received any type of warning from Facebook regarding these issues. The city has appealed Facebook's decision, and included in the appeal how citizens use this page to stay informed.
If there are issues with severe weather, citizens can continue to get updates on Twitter by going to @AthensAL. In addition, the "Athens Utilities Athens Alabama" and "Athens Fire & Rescue" Facebook pages are still operating and updates will be posted on these sites. Alerts will be sent out through Nixle, and updates will be posted on the city's website at athensal.us.
The city also will continually keep the media informed if there are issues regarding the weather.
We will continue to work with Facebook to try and get the "City of Athens, Alabama" page restored.
‘Take a deep breath’ and keep helping
In the social media world, Helen West is known as the grandmother whose cooking is missed by her granddaughter, Alabama Shakes lead singer, Brittany Howard.
But in Limestone County, West and her friend Ruth Nave are better known for their willingness to help families through Hospice.
The upcoming 25th annual Hospice of Limestone County Chili Challenge and Silent Auction funds salaries for four in-home respite workers, including West and Nave. These workers sit with patients so their caregivers can have time to shop, meet a friend for coffee or take a walk or a nap.
West has worked for Hospice since 2003. It was a promise she made when Hospice assisted her during the illness and death of her granddaughter Jamie Howard, Brittany’s sister. Jamie developed a brain tumor and lost her sight and died in 1998 as a teenager.
“When she was sick, Hospice came in and bathed her,” West said. “They knew she liked purple. It was her favorite color, and she had asked for a ring. One of the Hospice workers bought her a purple ring.”
After West retired, she kept her promise to Hospice.
“I cook for the patients so their caregivers can take a break,” West said. “It’s hard for these families to find someone they trust to come in and sit with their loved ones so they can leave the house for a while.”
Nave has been working with Hospice for 11 years. She became involved after Hospice helped with her mother-in-law. She works 32 hours a week cooking and cleaning for patients so their caregivers can get some rest.
“You get close to these families,” she said. “One of my patients now wants to play guitar for me, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Nave lost her husband on Dec. 1 and became a recipient again of Hospice.
“It’s hard to put into words what that support means to you, just to be able to have time to lay on your bed and rest for a moment because you know your loved one is in good hands.”
Nave and West grieve with the families when their loved ones die and admit it’s a challenge to keep working in a field where death is the known outcome.
“But you hug each other, take a deep breath and go on and deal with it because someone else needs you,” West said.
Without money raised from Chili Challenge, there would not be any funds for these in-home respite workers and non-Hospice bereavement programs, such as counseling. Hospice of Limestone County is a non-profit Hospice organization. The Chili Challenge generates between $40,000 and $50,000.
The community can help support these programs by competing in the Chili Challenge. There are 32 slots, and awards will be given for the best concoctions. Businesses and individuals can also donate art, autographed sports items, concert and sporting event tickets, electronics, and other items for the silent auction.
Those who want to attend and taste test the chili recipes and bid on items can buy tickets at Hospice or at the door for $10.
Chili Challenge T-shirts also are available for $10 for short sleeve and $15 for long sleeve.
For more information about competing, donating items, tickets or T-shirts, call Hospice at 256-232-5017 or go on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/HospiceOfLimestoneCoChili
The First Annual Chocolate Walk
You can come to The Square in Athens on Saturday, Feb. 9, and openly enjoy your love affair with chocolate. The Spirit of Athens is getting you in the mood for Valentine’s Day by sponsoring “A Chocolate Walk on The Square.”
Local merchants will have samples that will make your sweet tooth say, “Ahhh.” There also will be sweet deals for shoppers.
The event will be from 2 to 5pm. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online at www.athensspirit.blogspot.com or at the SOA office at 107 N. Jefferson St. next to LuVici’s on The Square. There are a limited number of tickets available, so early purchases are encouraged.
Check in at the SOA office the day of the event between 1:30 and 4:30pm to get a goody bag with the list of participating merchants and a treat.
The event includes a door prize drawing for $25 in “love bucks” that can be redeemed at participating downtown stores.
“The love bucks spend just like cash,” SOA Director Trisha Black said. “Chocolate and shopping – what could be better?”
But, shhhhh. Don’t tell the children about this chocolate stroll.
“This event is like Halloween for adults and older teens,” SOA Publicity Chairwoman Letisha Brinkley said. “The children got to visit our merchants on Halloween. This is a time for the adults to treat themselves to some alone time with their favorite sweetie or favorite sweet treat.”
For more information about “A Chocolate Walk on The Square,” call 256-232-9040.
Update on the Mayor’s Youth Commission
The kids are continuing to learn what it’s like to function in the “real world.” In order to participate in the program, they have to do a serious amount of volunteer work. They helped at the recent MLK Day celebration, will also help at the Chocolate Walk, and are learning all about how to soar through job interviews, as well as how to make a killer resume. Not all is fun and games, however. If they give their word that they are going to be someplace and are no-shows, or don’t do their assignments, they get busted for it. I for one am glad to hear it, and am so glad we have this program for our town’s future leaders.
The mix of food, love and hospitality
Holly asked me, “You ever notice how so many things in our town center around food? We have Bean Day, Chili Challenge, Poke Sallet, Grease Festival, Swamp John’s, and Buckin’ BBQ, all of which raise money for a good cause.” I guess I had never thought of it, but, as Holly says, “Athens is a giving town, and we love to eat.” And soon, we’ll have an IHOP, a Dairy Queen, and a 57 room hotel to make the sweet thing we have going on in Athens even more so!