Having a Grateful Heart…

By Kara Williams

Kids Club Assistant Leader




The leaves are changing colors and the air is growing cool again. This must mean it’s time for Kids Club at the Family ESL Program to begin! One of the many programs Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries offers is Kids Club, a program dedicated to alleviating suburban poverty one relationship at a time. Here there is fun to be had, new friends to meet, and hope to share in. Each week we bring new and exciting activities to explore and creativity is always encouraged. Children attending Kids Club also learn all about the joy of serving others.

For example, this week we all contributed in making a fingerprint painting for a fellow flower-picturestaff member. Each child placed his/her unique fingerprint on the canvas, creating a beautiful “fingerprint flower.” All faces were ear to ear in smiles as we completed the project to give her. This was just one of many times we will come together to serve someone we are thankful for.

At Kids Club, we emphasize important values such as having a grateful heart and respecting and appreciating others. Each of us has a role to play throughout the program year, and together we make it a wonderful place to be!

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty

Four Easy (and Two Free!) Ways to Support SON Ministries

As fall begins, we would like to take time to thank all of our supporters and readers of our blog. There are so many ways you can, and did, offer your support but whether you’re a long-time contributor, or new to SON Ministries, this season is a great time to be reminded of easy (and free) ways you can support us throughout the year. Thank you for considering supporting us through any or all of the ways listed below!

1. Kroger Rewards – Link your Kroger Card to support Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Kroger Logo - PMS 293Ministries! Every time you make a purchase with your card, SON Ministries will receive a portion of that sale! Hundreds of dollars have been donated to us through this program. To enroll, visit the Kroger Community Rewards page. Please note you MUST re-enroll every year, so if you have enrolled in the past, check to me sure you are still enrolled.

amazon-smile-logo-newest-012. AmazonSmile – AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com. By visiting SmileAmazon.com and choosing SON Ministries as your chosen charity, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to SON Ministries! You can log into your existing Amazon account (including Amazon Prime) while using AmazonSmile.

3. Amazon Wishlist – SON Ministries has set up an Amazon WishList for items needed su_amazonwishlist_480x150_dduring the Family ESL Program this year. All of these items are to be used at Kids Club, to provide academic support to the children attending. Purchase one or more items off the WishList and it will be sent directly to SON Ministries!

4. Become a Sustaining NeighborSet up monthly reoccurring donations to SON Ministries. These donations help us plan out our year financially and ensure that all SON Ministries programs happen from year to year! Monthly donations, no matter how small, are so important and impactful to a community not for profit like SON Ministries.

Thank you for ALL the ways you support Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries!

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty

What are Poverty Simulations?

By Sarah Florimonte

Development and Communications Associate

SON Ministries Central Staff

One question we often get from program participants, donors and volunteers is,“What do you do the rest of the year??”. Many times participants and volunteers find themselves heavily involved with one aspect or program of our ministry and are unaware of our other programs, mission fields or services. One mission we LOVE to talk about is COMMUNITY EDUCATION! We strive to identify and address needs in suburban communities. Then, we work to educate the community of these needs: to build empathy and compassion while teaching the value of and employing the Hand-Up Model.

One of the ways we do this is through Poverty Simulations. Poverty Simulations are unique and enlightening experiences that help individuals begin to understand what life is like for families facing poverty. The simulation we use at SON Ministries is based on the

Poverty Simulation Picture

Missouri Community Action Model. Participants are given an “identity” ranging from child to senior citizen and a situation card, explaining their financial, employment and family status. From there, they go through a simulated month, having to navigate what life is like with a shortage of money and resources and an abundance of stress.

We have facilitated these simulations at many school districts across the state, including multiple times in the Hilliard City School District. We have also done them in partnership with churches and civic groups. We strive to do more outreach to work with any group that has a need!

The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio Schools (Magazine) and the Pickerington Times-Sun have all covered SON Ministries’ Poverty Simulations and we are thrilled they are helping get the word out about this part of our Community Education efforts.

What else does SON Ministries do that you may not be aware of?

Stay tuned as we blog more about different aspects of our mission!

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to children and families facing the unique challenges of suburban poverty





My First Summer…

By Sarah Florimonte

Development and Communications Associate

SON Ministries Central Staff

As the newest member of the Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries Central Staff, thisCrafts summer was my first involved with the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids. Marketing, planning and preparing for an event I had never seen or attended was a unique experience that I will never forget. Before summer started, I watched videos, talked with coworkers and looked back at old records to try to catch a glimpse of what my six weeks of summer would look like.

After all that, I quickly realized I was unprepared the minute I stepped foot at camp for the first time. I had NO idea the impact this first summer would have on my life.

You can look at numbers, typing them a hundred times, and will have no idea the magnitude of children at one of the summer lunch sites. That first day I was overwhelmed by the noise and laughter coming from this group of children. They were so excited to have room to run and play and there was absolutely no denying that these children were having so much FUN at camp by their smiles. It was contagious and I couldn’t help but have fun just being in their presence every time I went to camp.

You can meet the staff members leading up to camp, and have no idea the skills they have to lead and teach every child that God brings to them at camp. These are skills I don’t possess and I would watch the seasonal staff play with children in a way that comes so easy to them and redirect bad behavior with such grace and kindness.

You can look at pictures and have no idea that surrounding those pictures of smiling faces and fun activities there are numerous other interactions and programming you are missing going on at the same time. Often, I would come to camp to take pictures of a certain invited guest or activity and find myself distracted by something else completely different going on with another group of children at the same time. The ability of the staff to organize all the activities was mind-boggling to me.

I could tell a million stories about camp this summer, and I will in the coming weeks, but most of all, what will always stick in my mind about 2016 will be that fact it was the first time I was able to see FIRST HAND what a small group of people can do to change the lives of hundreds of children in just six short weeks.

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty

Gaining Confidence

By Brittany White

Assistant Site Leader

Horizon Elementary School/ Hilliard Church of Christ

On the very first day of the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids this year, I walked into the lunch room at Hilliard Church of Christ. A little boy that I had known from the previous summer and from the Family ESL Program during the school year was already sitting at the table with his lunch, and when he saw me he burst into a huge smile, yelled, “Miss Brittany!”, and ran up to give me a hug. It made my day, and it gave me a lot of hope for a great summer!

Horize 'n ShineOn one of our restaurant days at Horizon there was a young, enthusiastic third grade boy who was working as a server. After many nerves and questions to the “green shirts” (staff members) about what to say to his customers, he served his first table with great success. Being very proud of himself and exhilarated by the experience, he shared his excitement with me about how it went. By the end of the day he was talking about owning his own restaurant when he was older and referencing the talk that a guest speaker (Charley Shin of Charleys and Bibibop) had given the other day about owning a restaurant. This boy was inspired by working at HoRIZE ‘n Shine Café and gained confidence after working as a server.

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty

Short Stories of Summer

By Taylor Richardson

Assistant Site Leader

Horizon Elementary School/ Hilliard Church of Christ

This summer I rode the bus with children to the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids and I would meet the children and a few of their parents at the bus stop in the morning. There was a little girl who would ride the bus every day and her mother would wait at the stop. Her mother was such a sweet woman and we would have conversation before the bus came every day. She told me about her four daughters and would always ask about my life and what I was up to. She was such an encouraging person for me to see every morning. One day, she came to camp at the end of the day to pick up her daughter and told me in a whispering voice that she needed help getting her daughter’s school supplies for the year. We were able to connect her with resources so she could get school supplies for her daughters. She was so grateful that she no longer had to worry about how her children were going to be ready for school. As she was leaving, she told me how thankful she was and told me she thought of me as one of her daughters. It was such a special moment for me because for me she had been a motherly figure and did more for me than she knew!

One of my favorite moments this summer was getting to the ride the bus with the BUS photochildren to Hilliard Church of Christ. I got to be the first one to see them in the morning and say goodbye to them at the end of the day. I feel so blessed to have gotten that extra time to share stories and listen to their stories. I feel like the time on the bus was such an important part of building relationships with the children this summer. My favorite part of the bus ride was picking up the Country Side Mobile Homes in the morning. The way the bus route is set up the bus had to go past Country Side and then turn around and come back to pick up the children. Everyday the bus would pass and honk the horn and all the children would come running out of their houses to get the bus. My favorite thing in the world was watching them all run out of their houses and jump on their bikes to get to the bus. They would always be laughing and smiling with each as they got on the bus. It made the start to the day of camp so much fun and enjoyable.

This summer I got to know and build relationships with the older children at the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids (our middle school and high school campers).  I have never had much experience with the older children and it was a foreign area for me. However, it quickly became my favorite part of the summer. The older children at camp were usually the children who were more stubborn and difficult when it came to following rules, but getting to know them better allowed me to see them in a whole new light. They were such a fun part of my day and were always encouraging me and making me feel like I was an important part of their day. They asked really hard questions and challenged me daily to think differently about life. They were such a joy and continuously surprised me every day. By then end of camp, the older boys told me they thought of me like their older sister, and I cried, and then they laughed at me for crying like little brothers would do. I love and adore them so much!

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty

Teenagers are Playing with Kids?!

TeenagersAssistant Site Leader – Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids

Horizon / Resurrection Lutheran Church

Seeing the older boys, who normally cause problem, care for younger boys was really high impact. A kindergarten boy became frustrated that he couldn’t shoot a basket and one of the 8th grade boys pulled him out of line and taught him how to shoot a basketball. After that, the older boy took him back into line and encouraged him as he played a game of knock-out.

A child at Horizon consistently refused to participate. He told me that he just wanted to be alone and to not be around people. This was all summer! There were a few times that he would ran laps around the playground and he eventually let me join him. On the last day, he started out pretty solemn as usual, but then was approached by a teen who played with him the rest of the day! I had actually never seen him as happy as he was on that day.

The first day a 4th grade girl was at camp, I took her to the gaga pit and she started looking around really confused. She said, “there are teens here?” I replied that yes, there were. Then she said, “and they are PLAYING with kids?!” I responded that the teens loved playing with the kids and Amanda stood there shocked. “Wow, usually teenagers don’t pay attention to little kids,” she said and then ran over to one and started to play.

During the first week of camp, a 3rd grade girl came to camp with a pain in her side. She explained that she had gotten hurt and sat on the outskirts of camp all day because it hurt to bad to play. During that day I spend a lot of time with her and she told me about her family situation. She explained that she lived with her grandma, her brother got taken away from them so she would never see him again, and she had never met her dad. During that conversation I got to talk to her about how she might not know her earthly father, her Heavenly Father was always with and loves her more than she could imagine. She continued to talk about God and His love for her.

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty

A Simple Thank You…

The following note was sent to our Executive Director, Kim Emch, from a parent of the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids. It was transposed and shared with permission. 

Ms Kim,

A simple “thank you” doesn’t see to be enough. The “sons ministry” has given my family Flowersso much this summer. After almost 2 years my husband and I have finally found full-time work (after being laid-off after 12 years with a company). As we become financially stable again, extra activities such as camp for 2 children is NOT in the budget. Not only did your program give them healthy meals every day but they openly and lovingly received great experience, fun activities, character building tasks, great memories, new friendships, shoes, school supplies, encouragement and a multitude of limitless kindness that reminds us of the precious love only those who know God can give. More than that, I cannot thank you enough for all that your ministry gave to my family…fulfilling many of our needs and leaving us with our dignity. We didn’t have to be ashamed because you guys humbly, kindly, warmly welcomed us daily. We are so grateful and appreciative. Please accept these flowers as a reflection of the beauty we see in you. Thank you. (Name Withheld)

SON Ministries: bringing HOPE to families facing suburban poverty.

Simple Blessings

Lori Clotz


I had the honor of volunteering at the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids recently at two lunch sites (Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church and Horizon Elementary). The first day I noticed a young girl by herself and decided to strike up a conversation with her. The conversation led to she and I writing a silly story, trying nine square (why didn’t we have this game in the late 70’s?), and then to her teaching me to hula hoop. I am 49. While the two of us were hula hooping, another young girl joined in beside us. I saw that my friends’ nametag said she was in the 3rd grade while the other girl’s said she was in the 4th grade. I said to them, “you both are so close in age that you could be good friends.” They both just looked at me and sort of smiled. The first day was ending and my 3rd grade friend started to leave, but then turned and came back and hugged me. Blessed, truly blessed!

I returned the next day to this same site and saw my friend as she passed through the greeting tunnel. I sensed she was bravely trying to branch out on her own so I branched out as well. I met a new friend and walked her through how to use bucket stilts. She caught on quickly and proceeded to balance on the mini buckets. Then another little boy approached us and pointed to the stilts she was using and said to me, “ I want those!” I then said to him, “ Then you say to her, “When you are finished can I use those?” He repeated the question to my stilted friend and she stopped, stepped down onto the floor, and handed the stilts to him right away. He looked at me amazed that he was able to get what he wanted so quickly just by asking nicely. This bustling day of wonderful camp experiences (listening to Chomp being read a loud, choosing a book to take home, hearing a speaker (who I discovered happened to be married my high school classmate), playing games, eating a healthy lunch, and tie dying shirts.) was coming to a close. Then as campers were heading to the buses, God timed the scene just perfect for my view. There in front of me were two special little girls, one in the 3rd grade and one in the 4th grade happily hugging each other goodbye. Blessed, truly blessed!

My third day of camp took me to a different lunch site. I had the pleasure of seeing a Junior Achievement business partner teach entrepreneurship to the campers. He played a game with replica money. He handed “money” to the pretend business owners and accidentally overpaid one young boy. As he walked away, the young boy counted and then looked at me with eyes that said, “what do I do?” I asked him what was wrong. He said he received extra “money.” I said to tell the Junior Achievement speaker because it is good to always be honest. This young boy returned the “money” and the JA speaker gave him praise for being honest. The young boy smiled with pride. Blessed, truly blessed!

I learned something new each day while volunteering for SON ministries, but the biggest lesson that kept transcending through the week is “in the simple.” It is the simple things (trying something new, making a friend, being polite, being honest, etc.) that are important to our children and their future. Maybe “in the simple” we will bring about peace in the home, in the neighborhood, imagine…. in the world. Thanks to the host sites, the site leaders, the organizers, the staff, the teen volunteers, the community volunteers, and the bus drivers who are promoting peace by handing down the “simple things” each day. You are a blessing, a true blessing!

Middle Schoolers: They’re Lovable Too

By Will Sheets

Middle School LeaderIMG_2315

Why engage in the lives of middle school and high school students? Why step into, what is for many, an uncomfortable, awkward and emotional time of life? Because they are worth it. They are moldable. There is a HUGE need.

My name is Will and this year I am serving as the Middle School Leader for the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids.   My job is to provide exciting and engaging programming for our students who are in 6th grade or older. During the year I teach 7th and 8th grade in Southwestern City Schools.

This is a brand new adventure for us here at SON Ministries. As we enter into our 10th summer of this important community program, we were facing a new problem. Many of the families and respective children we have been serving are growing up. Many of the kids we started with are now entering into middle school and high school. Last summer we began to face the difficulty of trying to fit middle school aged children into a camp with programming designed mainly for children in grades k-5. Many of our older children began to grow bored with the programming for the younger campers and naturally began to act out.

This summer we are creating space just for these older campers! In May I received a message from an 8th grade boy who attended camp last year asking if I was returning to camp this summer. When I told him I was returning and that we were planning activities specifically for our older students he quickly sent a message which simply read, “IT’S ABOUT TIME!!!!!!!!!!!”

So far this summer, we have focused a lot on developing trust and relationships with the older children specifically. One of the first days, as I was communicating some of our rules and expectations I communicated a common theme of our summer camps. God made each of us and loves each of us, so that is enough reason to love and respect one another. What seems like such a simple truth to many of us can be a totally foreign concept to a child entering the world of adolescence, a time when friendships are constantly beginning and ending, a time when great changes are happening and a time of self-discovery. During the first days of camp my goal has been to show these young people that they are truly lovable. If a child doesn’t believe they are lovable how can we expect them to accept that God loves them as well as expect them to love one another?

Would you please join us in praying that we will see meaningful relationships developed with our middle school students?  Would you also pray that these children would take time during their summer breaks to grow in character, love and respect? I am excited about this summer, because in the words of an 8th grade boy, “IT’S ABOUT TIME!!!!!!!”

“Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”  – Rita Pierson

At SON Ministries, PEOPLE are our priority, relationships are our goal.