When Helen Carter of Elkmont learned she is the first Athena-Grease Goddess for the second annual Athens Grease Festival, she thought the caller was pulling her fried chicken leg.
“I don’t know what to say,” Carter said. “Are you joking with me? That’s pretty dad-gum good.”
Carter worked 25 years as director of the Athens Senior Center and gives Athens the royal treatment when it comes to her volunteering spirit. That’s exactly what the Athens Grease Festival Committee was searching for in a Limestone County woman.
The festival is 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday in downtown Athens. It is hosted by the Spirit of Athens as a celebration of all things fried and the Greek origin of the city’s name.
Festival organizers said they were looking “for someone who gives back to the city by volunteering, being involved in community events and helping make Athens a great place to live.”
Carter received three nominations. The festival’s major sponsor, The News-Courier, had a committee review the nomination forms and choose the winner.
Among the comments Carter received were, “Great motivator,” “She has devoted her life to helping the elderly citizens,” and, “She has a genuine concern for the success of the projects and the people she serves.”
“Part of the reason I am so involved is that I never ask anybody else to do anything I wouldn’t do myself,” Carter said. “You also get a good feeling when you know you’ve accomplished something and helped your fellow man.”
History of giving back
Carter serves on the board of directors for various groups including Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments, Mental Retardation Authority, Foundation on Aging and Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. She also works with Care Assurance for the Aged and Homebound (CASA), City of Athens Relay for Life, Limestone County Department of Human Resources’ special projects and her church at Elkmont Church of Christ.
“You see Helen working at Bean Day, Mud Volleyball, Relay for Life Bass Fishing Tournament and other activities throughout the year,” said Mayor Ronnie Marks. “She is a great example to all of us on taking time to give back.”
Those who nominated her also praised Carter’s abilities in the kitchen, stating her best fried dishes are okra and chicken.
“We are excited that Helen Carter is our first Athena,” said Festival Chairwoman Betsy Hyman. “You read over her activities, and you’re amazed at all she does for the city and Limestone County. And she can cook, which is important for our version of Athena.”
As Athena, Helen Carter will receive a toga, head piece, torch and gift basket. She will lead the opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. and be introduced to the crowd. She will have an inflatable throne at the top of the courthouse steps from which she can watch the festivities or rest from her duties. She will also judge the toga contest.