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These two…

This was my second summer working full time for the SON Ministries Summer Lunch Camp, as well as my second summer working specifically with the kindergarten through second graders at a specific site. Obviously, all the children I get to see daily are cute and they all make my heart grow simply when I look at them. But this summer, there were two girls in particular that really had their hands on my heart. They’re sisters, one 7 and one 5, and they are the most beautiful little girls I’ve ever seen. They started out as two of my quiet friends, letting me play with them while I talked or holding my hand as we walked outside. As the summer went on, they never left my side. One sister always had a story to tell me and the other always had to be at my side. I can’t really explain why, but every time I looked at them together, I felt the lump of tears in my throat and my eyes began to well up. 

Towards the end of the summer, they started telling me about their parents’ restaurant. They didn’t know what it was called or where it was, only that it served Mexican food. Eventually, they brought me business cards and started asking me when I was going to come. I gave them a date, wrote it on a post-it note for them to take home to their dad, and patiently waited for that day to come.

When it did, I pulled up with my best friend and we went inside. It was a smaller, local place, with street tacos, burritos, and Mexican style homemade ice cream. I met the sisters’ dad by saying that it was my first time in because I was their summer camp counselor and he immediately lit up.

“They keep saying, she’s coming soon, she’s coming soon, and now here you are! I’ve been wanting to tell you: thank you for taking such good care of my babies.” And as he finished talking, the girls ran into the restaurant and tackled me with hugs. I got to enjoy a delicious and authentic Mexican meal and at the end, their father said, “my daughter told me she’s going to take care of your dinner tonight, so don’t worry about paying and order anything else you want off the menu.”

I could’ve broke down right then. The whole situation just reminded me why I do this. Clearly, the three hours I spent everyday with these precious little girls was more appreciated than their father could put into words. And I realized too that those same three hours during which he trusted me with his babies, was helping me as much as it was helping him. I am forever grateful to this family because they have the biggest hearts of anyone I know.

The Campers’ Cookout

On Thursday, I had the pleasure of working with the campers who have completed 3rd grade and above in opening up their very own restaurant. With this exciting opportunity, I got to see young entrepreneurs working in a real life situation. These children worked as head chefs, cooks, waiters and waitresses,and even restaurant managers. Our site leader, Mr. Art put me in charge of being the expediter. With this position, I was responsible for making sure that everything that went out of the kitchen was exactly the way it was ordered by the customers.

I have decided to write my blog about The Cookout because it was such a unique idea to put such young individuals through a tough, yet valuable experience. The restaurant taught the children important IMG_2570.jpglessons regarding patience, hard work, and leadership and this is what stood out to me the most. They were forced to communicate with real customers who may have been intimidating to some. They also had to have the courage to take charge and correct any mistakes anyone made. Lastly, they learned the value of hard work and the rewarding feeling it gives. I was really impressed that even at a young age, these children are being taught lessons that are important in the real world once they become adults and have to face the business world on their own. I believe putting kids in more situations like the restaurant will really prepare them and give them a broader insight on the world ahead of them.

I would like to close out my blog by thanking SON Ministries, my mentors, and leaders (green shirts) at the Hilliard Horizon PM site for giving me the chance to volunteer with so many children and work with so many adults. This internship has allowed me to learn more and more things about the young people in Hilliard every day and more and more things about myself. Lastly, I’d like to end my blog post by inviting anyone reading to become a part of the SON Ministries team. I encourage any teen reading this post to become a volunteer at the SON Ministries Summer Lunch Camp sites. It is truly an exciting experience that teaches you important lessons every day. And for all adults reading my post that aren’t already a part of SON, I challenge you to also join SON Ministries. It is a team that you won’t regret joining!


I am a Teen Intern for SON Ministries. I’ve been involved with the SON Ministries Summer Lunch program for about eight years so it’s almost like I’ve grown up with SON. But this was my first year volunteering for SON Ministries at Kids Club. Out of all the eight years, this year seems to stand out the most to me because I received a whole different perspective. But one thing hasn’t changed throughout my experience with SON Ministries, the feeling of happiness. I’ve had many great experiences with the children and volunteers, but the one thing that made this year even more special to me was that there were children and volunteers from the same country as me, which really made Kids Club feel like a second home. There hasn’t been a day where I didn’t smile or laugh. The people around you at SON Ministries are unbelievably positive. They are like my second family, they are always there for you whenever you need someone. The children and volunteers never failed to put a smile on my face.

Whenever someone asks me to describe the feeling you get at any of SON Ministries’ programs, I describe it as when you first walk in you’ll instantly fall in love with the program. There’s something about seeing a room full of children and adults all getting along and the laughs and smiles on their faces. You just know in your heart that it will become your safe place to let all your worries and stress fly away.

 I always ask myself who would I be without SON Ministries. I truly don’t know the answer to that because SON Ministries has helped me discover my passion for helping others and my community. SON Ministries has even provided me with many opportunities. One being the youth board; where we get to discuss problems in our community and how to solve those problems. Tuesday and Thursday nights have definitely became the highlight of my week.


Thank you SON Ministries for giving me my safe place.

From Teen Intern to Doctor – Destroying Inequality

IMG_3563In June of 2013, I started my summer job as a teen intern for the Hilliard Free Summer Lunch Camp, which was a program that provided children facing poverty in our area with a nutritious breakfast and lunch during the long summer break. This helped spare their parents from worries of where to obtain their next meal and focus on their jobs to raise their family. The Hilliard City School District provides these children with free or reduced-fees for breakfast and lunch during the school year, but when the school year ends, the parents have to use their savings to feed them.

This program allows the parents to save their money so they can use the allowances for other bigger expenses instead. In addition, the children can be fed hearty meals instead of cheaper foods high in sodium, unhealthy fats, toxic chemicals, and refined carbohydrates.

Although I had so much fun with the children during the internship, I also became deeply concerned for their future. Whenever their parents were out working, the children must look for food on their own without the parents’ watchful eye. Children are probably not concerned with the nutrition facts on the labels, and they probably do not have shelves stocked full with whole-grain or protein-rich products since they tend to be on the more costly side. Junk foods like this are not only correlated with diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases, but they are also related to conditions such as ADHD, depression, and other behavioral problems. The parents are already stressed from financial troubles, so adding these physical and mental conditions on their plate could strain them beyond imaginable, not to mention the additional costs for providing medicine for the children’s illnesses (which is most definitely not cheap).

It made me furious that these children were developing the risk of preventable illnesses every day at their home, yet the parents could not do anything about it because they simply lacked the financial resources. The Free Summer Lunch Camp was an excellent way to nourish them with healthy meals, but I knew that there were millions of children out there still feeding themselves with toxic foods and growing in stressful homes.

According to statistics, an estimated 50 million Americans live in households that are unable to consume nutritious foods on a regular basis. This includes over 16 million children, so approximately 20% of American children go hungry at some point during the year. I know that the government is working to reduce these numbers, but clearly not enough work is being done. I decided that when I became a physician, I would devote my life in serving my community by saving children from risks of mental and physical diseases and helping reduce costs of healthcare fees to spare families of additional financial stress.

Speaking of healthcare, I think that it is ridiculous how wealthier homes are already in lower risk of developing disease, yet they receive much better healthcare than those less fortunate. America is leading the world charts when it comes to the most expensive healthcare per person. In addition, poverty is racist; minority groups tend to have higher numbers of  families facing poverty. I firmly believe that there is medical injustice in this country. In the future, I hope to use my platform to destroy this inequality.

When I was little, I always dreamed of becoming a successful surgeon and rolling around in my riches. However, the Free Lunch Summer Camp truly opened my eyes to reality, and I realized how foolish my old dreams were when I should have been thankful knowing how fortunate I was compared to millions of others drowning in debts. I want to use my career to teach families about nutrition and how to manage their money wisely to find the perfect balance in managing their expenses and making sure that their children are eating proper meals. However, this would be difficult without having the government step in to help with lower costs in healthcare and providing more welfare for these families. When I become a doctor, I hope to use my power to lift the financial and health troubles from those suffering day to day.

In the summer of 2015, I started shadowing Dr. Trevor at his dental clinic. At first, I simply expected to learn his daily routine at work and how to use his dental tools, but I learned something much more valuable. The most important lesson was how he treated each patient. I noticed how he always started a conversation with each patient because he knew that many were either scared or stressed when going to see their dentist, and he wanted to make the experience much easier for them. He also knew what signs to look out for because each patient had specific risks for tooth or gum disease. Because of Dr. Trevor, I learned that caring and empathy were values that would determine my true passion and reason for becoming a physician. I realized that doctor-to-patient interaction is one of the most important part in medicine when treating people. If a physician were to do his or her job with no empathy or a sense of looking out for the patient, he or she would have failed at the job. Medicine is not simply about biochemistry or technique. It is about giving your best interest to the patient in order to make the quality of his or her life the best that it can be.

Building Bright Futures

When you first arrive at UALC, the location for the Family ESL program at SON Ministries, you see all of the children lining up getting ready to go into the gym. A minute before start time, at about 5:59 pm, one of the green shirt workers lets the children into the gym.  All of the volunteers are setting up and getting ready for the doors to open. As soon as the doorsBrennanEdit open and you see all of those happy faces you know it’s going to be a fun night. Everyone runs into the gym to their preferred area. I personally choose to go to the 9 square where a lot of children choose to go. Everyone is in the gym or craft area for about 30 minutes. We then move to snack time. The children come into snack time one grade level at a time and find their preferred seat and begin to eat the generously donated snacks. At this point some of the teen interns will go up to the table and grab either the milk jugs or a pitcher of water. I always choose the water pitcher. A lot of the children now have started to call me “Waterboy” because I have been giving out water for about 2 years now. The name has stuck and I am called “Waterboy” no matter what the setting is now. I could be at school, at church, it doesn’t matter whenever I see one of the children from this organization that’s my name! I love it. It’s fun to see how my relationships have evolved with some of these children. 

After snack we move into academic support which lasts about 30 minutes.  Children that have homework from their day at school will bring it and get help if they don’t understand it. If the children don’t have homework they get the opportunity to read books as a group based on their grade level. This is the highlight of my night! I usually help the kindergarten reading group. I love seeing the children improve from week to week and actually get excited to read and learn new things as they discover their love for reading. It truly makes me feel good inside knowing that I’m doing something good for others and showing them how important it is to read.  After academic time we move into free play. During this time there is usually a fun game or activity that the leaders have planned. I have never had a night where all of the children didn’t enjoy playing these games whether it’s Mario Kart, balloon tag or wrapping kids in toilet paper to make mummies. There are also plenty of different crafts going on during this time if you’re not feeling up to the game.

As the evening comes to an end, at about 8:30 pm, parents will start to pick up their children and leave. These children are extremely special in all different areas and I truly enjoy spending each Tuesday and Thursday with them. There are some extremely talented children in this program and I can tell they will have a bright future ahead of them. They each have a special place in my heart and I love seeing them grow up before my own eyes. Everyone at SON Ministries is extremely nice and welcoming, I highly suggest coming and helping out if you’re looking to serve your community!


Why Your Snack Donation Matters

What if I told you that a snack could change a child’s life?

IMG_1023My name is Emma Gill and I am going on my 3rd year working at the Family ESL Program. Over the years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to spend time with the children who come to our program. Their smiling faces and positive energy never fail to brighten up my day. This year is my first year working in Kid’s Club, which is for children ages Kindergarten through the 8th grade. Kid’s Club is a positive, fun, and encouraging atmosphere.

At Kid’s Club, we seek to give our children all of the tools they need to thrive. Some of these tools include academic support, fun crafts to get their creative juices flowing, group games, and a snack. Although a snack might not seem all that important, a hunger survey given to our children revealed that many children show up to our program hungry. This being the case, we make it a goal at SON Ministries to feed our children a filling meal that leaves them feeling nourished and cared for. Because SON Ministries is a non-profit, we rely fully on the community to be our snack angels. I have been so touched by the generosity of individuals in the Hilliard community and beyond who have kindly donated sandwiches, milk, fruit, and so many other foods to our program. I am especially grateful to restaurants like Chick Fil A, which has donated literally hundreds of chicken sandwiches to our program over the past few months. It is an amazing feeling to know that our program and the community are working together to feed hundreds of hungry bellies every night at our program.

Sadly, we have nights where we do not have any snack angels. On these nights, we have to give the children peanut butter crackers and other non-perishable items to eat. While the children are grateful for this food too, it is not the kind of dinner you probably make for yourself in your home. That is why we need you to be a snack angel!

If you have ever wondered how you can make a difference in the world, this is it! Imagine how loved and cared for you would feel if every time you came to Kid’s Club you left feeling happy and healthy. For many of our children, a snack shows them that they are important and valued. The feeling of value leads to empowerment and empowerment fosters confidence. Confidence becomes ambition and ambition leads to determination. With determination, I believe that any child can accomplish their goals and change the world. So you see a snack is not just a snack, it is a way to change a child’s life for the better.

Will Never Forget You!

Charmi PatelI am a Teen Intern for Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries every Tuesday and Thursday, since early October. While being at Kids Club, I met so many amazing children and peers, which makes it the highlight of my week. In particular, there are these two children in which I have become really close with. Every time they come to Kids Club they are always in a positive attitude, and constant energy, which always improves my mood, leaving a smile on my face. Not just those two guys, but all of the children are laughing, smiling, and interacting with one another throughout the night. There are so many things to learn from the children. The most important thing I have learned in my short time is patience.

On a Thursday night I walked into the academic support room, and sat down at a random table. I started helping a few different children at one time, but there was this one guy that I really get close with that night. As I was helping him with his homework he sort of started singing a song from one of his favorite influences. Which also happened to be one of my favorite influences as well. We finally started talking about ourselves, while working through his homework. After that night every time he saw me at Kids Club he would always run up to me, and we would strike up a conversation. When we are talking and just goofing around time always goes by so quick. He just might be one of the only people that could say the exact same thing over and over again, and it still be funny every time. At the end of the night when the Teen Interns are cleaning up, he always somehow finds me. He never leaves the building without giving me a hug.

SON Ministries is a place of HOPE where families facing poverty can come together as one.

Contagious Positivity

Kids Club Teen Intern

Carolyn HalesI am a Teen Intern for SON Ministries and every Tuesday and Thursday since late October I’ve been volunteering at Kids Club and I’ve met some awesome children and people. Kids Club is the highlight of my week. In particular, there are two little girls who are sisters and I’ve become pretty close with them. Every time they come into Kids Club they run up to me and give me a big hug. Their positive attitude, imagination and constant energy always improves my mood instantly and leaves a smile on my face. The children are always laughing and playing and have so much to say. I learn a lot from them. They’ve taught me patience and love.

There are several other children that I’ve got to spend time with and I love hearing all about them and what they like to do for fun. I’ve gotten really close with many of them and we have our own inside jokes and I know their favorite games to play. I also love helping out during our reading groups which are a great way for the children to spend time enjoying a book and improve their listening skills simultaneously. I also volunteer at the Columbus Metropolitan Library as a reading buddy, so it’s really cool to see those go hand in hand. My goal in the future is to be an English teacher and volunteering at Kids Club helped me discover how much of a special place children hold in my heart.

I’ve noticed that since coming to Kids Club, my stress levels are lower and my happiness is higher than ever. Not only does SON Ministries benefit the children it serves, but it also benefits the teens who volunteer there as well. I’ve become really close with the guys and girls I volunteer with and I’ve made several new friendships through volunteering. Overall, I would recommend volunteering in general to anyone, but especially through Kids Club. It truly is something special and I’m so grateful that I get to be apart of it.

At SON Ministries, we build up COMMUNITY one respectful, empowering relationship at a time.

Laugh and Smile

Taylor Richardson

Middle School Leader

20171017_234838544_iOSI have been with SON Ministries going on three years now, being involved with both SON Ministries Summer Lunch Program and the Family ESL Program. I started working with SON Ministries when I was a sophomore in college and I am now a graduating senior. Working with SON Ministries has completely changed my life and my life’s direction over these past three years. On the first day, I walked into a gym filled with laughing and playing children and fell in love. Over the next three years I began to understand what my passion was and fell even more in love with each of the children. Through working with SON’s mission, I understood that I wanted to work with children to create a path for success and equity in every child’s life. This is what SON Ministries cultivates and pursues. With graduation approaching in two weeks I have accepted a position with Teach for America and will be in a classroom by next school year. I am excited for my first day to walk into a classroom and fall in love with those children. Every day that I come to work I see the life changing things that SON Ministries is doing for the families in our program, but reflecting over these past three years SON Ministries has been doing equally life changing things in my own life!

This year SON has created a program specifically designed for the middle school aged children that come nightly. The middle school aged children now have their own space and time to do activities and games that are age appropriate in hopes to retain our older children involved in the program. I have had the great pleasure to work with this group of children. We have done so many exciting things in the short 4 months that we have been together. We have carved pumpkins, cooked meals together, had movie nights, played some intense soccer competitions, and other exciting games!

IMG-4892.JPGMany of the children that come to our middle school group are the oldest sibling in their families and hold many responsibilities when they are at home. One of the middle school girls that comes nightly told me during our pumpkin carving night that she was having so much fun and she isn’t usually the one that gets to have fun, her younger sibling are the ones that get to have the fun at home. That was such an eye opening and special moment for me. This middle school program specifically is so important! These children all deserve to feel like children. They deserve to laugh and smile because they are just having FUN!

At SON Ministries, we build up COMMUNITY one respectful, empowering relationship at a time.

The Capacity to Serve

Lindsay Phoenix

Winter Wear – Children’s Coat Store Leadership Team

This was our family’s second year to help at the Winter Wear coat store.  While I was IMG_6229feeling like less of a novice and really looking forward to getting everything set up to host as many families as we could, it was my own kids who might have been even more excited about the upcoming Monday nights than I was!  They remembered from last year what it was like to organize, carry, sort, move, bake, and smile for these special guests who were coming to our church.  There’s no denying Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  While I have the words to articulate this verse and understand what a privilege it is to serve others, I loved watching the purity of heart with which my kids, and the other kids from our church group manifested this innate part of our hearts.  There’s no denying the way God satisfies our hearts when we give to others.  I’m so thankful for the verse right before Ephesians 2:10 that says, “For it is by grace we have been saved, through faith, ” and I’m so glad God has gifted us the capacity to serve.

I love being a part of Winter Wear in particular because of the way SON Ministries desires to preserve the dignity of the recipients of their services.  I think that’s what makes this such a great environment for our family to participate in.  There’s no chaos (except what my own 4 year old may be creating!), fear, or stigmas generated.  My kids watch people who look and sound the same and different from them be welcomed and embraced, and they find it easy to do the same.  They see kids who want to run around, find the perfect pink hat, and have a warm winter coat, just like they do.  I’m really thankful that SON Ministries has given our family this model to serve by, and that they have provided lots more kids in Hilliard the opportunity to hear “Put your coat on!” this winter.

At SON Ministries, we bring HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty by connecting them to people, resources and a HAND-UP!