By Angie Staten
Taco Bell Jr. Lead Kitchen Volunteer
Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids
What a blessing and a privilege to be able to work with the kids at the Hilliard Church of Christ lunch site in the summers. Children at this site have been prepping, cooking and serving truly authentic Mexican food for the past four years at THEIR restaurant: “Taco Bell Jr”. It is incredible that children as young as 7 years old are learning how to make salsa, guacamole and fajitas. The kids have become such little experts that adults just need to oversee them. Each week the children run in to the kitchen upon arriving and ask, “Can I be the window manager?”, “Can I make the fajitas?” Seeing middle and high school boys laughing and having fun while making “their secret watermelon juice” warms my heart each week. The waiters and waitresses are incredible – only 8-13 years old! Each Friday during restaurant hours they take care of the customers with such sincerity. They want their customers to be happy and enjoy their food. They often ask to talk in between orders about how to improve their service. When I first started with the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Program I thought I was the one that was going to be blessing many children. But… over the years I have seen it’s the children that are blessing ME. I thank God for this great experience!
At SON Ministries, we build up community, one respect-filled relationship at a time.
By: Bradley Petrella
Assistant Site Leader- Bayside & Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church
Our staff that oversees both our Bayside Commons Apartment complex site and Resurrection Lutheran site has become accustomed to rain on any given day this summer, but we initially worried how the weather trend would impact camp at Bayside. At this site, we have very limited shelter – the two garages the management kindly lends to us – which are meant to be our “kitchen” and rec equipment storage areas. Our plans were of course greatly impacted by the rain. We joked that this summer, we might have to call our much-anticipated weekly “Water Day” “Natural Water Day” instead. Sure enough, it rained on one of our first Water Days…!!!
To our surprise, a sizeable core of kids showed up eager for camp anyway. While ten to fifteen kids filled one of the garages, playing games and stringing bracelets together, several others grabbed our dollar store water guns and began filling them in the growing puddles on the ground. What ensued was PURE FUN!!! I joined the water fight along with some of our Teen Interns and our Children’s Hunger Alliance Guest Educator, as the kids reminded us that a little rain won’t hurt anyone and that fun is often quite easy to come by.
At RELC, we are blessed with ample indoor space, but the kids there also have taught that elaborate supplies and activities are not necessary. While making hovercrafts out of Styrofoam bowls and balloons, the kids quickly became enthralled with blowing up and collecting the balloons alone. In the gym, it’s common to see one of our youngest boys joyfully rolling or kicking his favorite toy, a huge red ball, across the floor. Simple fun at its best!
Come join us and experience some simple and spontaneous fun this summer!
At SON Ministries, we are INSPIRED by the UNEXPECTED!
By Jeremy Raines
Administrative Assistant of Programs
A life of servitude is something that doesn’t come easy. It’s something that demands thought of the “other” before the “self”; it’s ultimately selfless, unconditional. And because of this, such a lifestyle requires hope, a hope that a life of service will echo and plant more seeds of the servant’s heart.
My last few weeks on Central Staff at SON Ministries have forced me to look beyond myself. For some time I’ve looked at the world as though the odds were always stacked up against me, that my actions, especially those of service, ended once an interaction came to a close. This outlook couldn’t be anymore wrong. I’ve seen it in the eyes of the Teen Interns and volunteers; when one helps another they create a ripple effect. This isn’t by any means a losing battle. I’ve seen the respect the kids at camp have for the volunteers first hand, and it’s something truly special. And such treatment isn’t one sided, it’s mutual; after all, a great number of the Teen Interns had once filled the same shoes as the kids at camp.
Yet such respect doesn’t come easy. It’s a matter of discipline for anyone of any age to understand the significance of servitude. Some people live out their years only scratching at the surface of it, while others may never bother to look beyond their own interests. Yet those who begin to unveil what it means to take ownership of the servant’s heart will fill the shoes required to make transformative differences in their communities.
This is what’s important: it doesn’t matter whether or not the child shares my belief in Jesus Christ, but rather they recognize the need for (and rewards of!) servant leadership. They may not call it that, they may never have heard that term before, yet it’s something they’re seeing and experiencing everyday. And because of this, I believe that SON Ministries’ summer camp is much more than just a venue for food and fun, it’s an opportunity for transformation through relationships.
At SON Ministries people are our priority- relationships are our goal.
By: Bradley Petrella
Assistant Site Leader- Bayside & Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church
Many of the children we serve come from multiple-sibling families and show up in groups of two, three, or four eager faces each day. Whether fairly new to the country or a familiar face at our camps, the families amaze our staff with the care shown between siblings. One family at Bayside includes three older boys and their 6-year-old sister who is at camp for the first year. As a beautiful example of sibling love, the older boys have always made sure to look out for their sister, sitting with her at lunch and being her partner during group activities.
In other situations, older children take special care of younger ones as if they were siblings. At Bayside, a 4-year-old boy with limited knowledge of English showed up right before lunch on his first day and could have been overwhelmed if not for the brotherly guidance of a 12-year-old friend. Despite not knowing Spanish, the 4 year-old’s primary language, the 12-year-old boy has seemingly adopted him as a brother at camp.
Our staff has grown fond of the special relationships so many of the siblings have with each other at our sites. We are inspired by the way some non-family members treat each other like siblings.
Come experience the spirit of “family” that we are fostering daily this summer!
At SON Ministries, we build up COMMUNITY one respectful, empowering relationship at a time.
By Alison Gessner Rooney
Director of Programs
At the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids, God has brought us fifty Teen Interns to FEED LOVE and SERVE their neighbor. These teens, “orange shirts” as we affectionately call them, make a four week commitment – a commitment to come faithfully, engage with the children, help with set up and tear down and be available and flexible for any needs that come up. They make a choice to carve out the time to do something meaningful summer 2015.
The Teen Interns come from a very diverse cultural, religious and socio-economic demographic: some are older siblings of the campers OR were once campers themselves and have now “aged up” and are wearing a prestigious “orange shirt” as volunteers – proudly acting as mentors and giving back to their community.
Others are coming in contact for the very first time with neighbors (children and their parents) who are struggling economically. The teens are learning that we have MORE in common with our neighbors – all of our neighbors – than anything that might “separate” us. They are building a foundation for life of compassion and experiencing an effective, respect-filled response.
Teens are learning to be grateful for what they have but, like me, might on any given day(s) take for granted: from food on their table to a peaceful loving home to time spent in the presence of adults who are not working two or three jobs and have TIME to be present and pour into them. And they want all of this for the kiddos they meet and now adore.
Teens also see what THEY are capable of: they are so integral a part of our volunteer/staff team that they experience the JOY and reward of hard work in service to others. They are not leaving the joyful hard work of serving others to “someone else” to do.
Teens are also meeting peers from other high schools both within Hilliard but also beyond – Worthington and Upper Arlington too!
And… teens are having FUN – simply by being with the precious resilient children that God brings to us daily.
It’s hard to describe all that God is doing through the SON Ministries Teen Internship Program (year round!) – one dimension of this larger ministry – but this is just a glimpse into what we are blessed to experience – together – and gives me great HOPE for the future of our community and our country.
At SON Ministries, we build up community, one respect-filled relationship at a time – all are transformed.
By: Brittany White
Assistant Site Leader- Horizon & Hilliard Church of Christ
As the summer goes on, I’m continually amazed by the kids at Horizon and HCC and all that they bring to the program (and all that they’re gaining from it). I’ve watched a few kids who were very shy and quiet when they first came to camp now coming out of their shells and greeting me enthusiastically, interacting more with others, and getting excited about the crafts and games we do at camp. I now see so many smiles on faces that were timidly glancing around the room before, and I’m filled with joy that we are providing so much more for these kids than just a lunch every day. The kids in all age groups are partaking in arts and crafts, face painting, live action Mario Kart (my personal favorite), dodge ball, and learning from our weekly guests, like the nurses and the librarian.
I’ve brought my guitar to camp a few times and I’m inspired by how much some of the kids love not only to listen to me play, but how interested they are in taking a turn and learning to play as well. The children are all extremely motivated and are eager to express themselves and show others what they have to offer. And because of this I am so excited to come to camp every day to see what they will surprise me with next!
At SON Ministries, we build up COMMUNITY one respect-filled, empowering relationship at a time.