Scouting Out Unique Volunteer Opportunities

IMG_5483Brennan Lancia

Teen Volunteer

While sitting in church one Sunday at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church (UALC), I saw a video about Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries. They were talking about their English as a Second Language (ESL) program and looking for volunteers to help out on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I was also at the point in Scouting where I was looking for ideas for my Eagle Scout Project. When I saw the video I immediately wanted to go and check out the program to see what SON Ministries was all about. I started to volunteer every Tuesday and Thursday night helping the kids in the program with their homework and reading along with playing games, shooting hoops and just having fun keeping active with the kids. While I was there I started to realize that the people at SON Ministries were in need of some fun indoor/outdoor activities for the kids along with some type of cart to store and bring things up and down from where they stored everything. I thought that making some of these things that they needed would be highly appreciated, so I started to plan out my Eagle Scout project around these needs.

Pic 3With the storage cart and games in mind I needed to find a way to raise money for these items I wanted to make for them. My thought was based on how much money I raised I would build a rolling cart for storage, a giant outdoor Jenga set and a 9 Square game for them. To raise money for the project I started to collect books that I would then take to Half Price Books store in exchange for money and use towards my supplies. In order to get the word out about collecting books I made fliers and handed them out in my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods around where I live. I also had my Mom post on Facebook and shared with my Scout troop and made an announcement at my FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meeting at school. I received a great response and started to gather the books and hand them in for cash. The more books I collected, the more things I could make and get for SON Ministries.

I was able to reach my fundraising goal and provide all three items; the rolling cart, the Giant Jenga and the 9 Square game. With a team of scouts we cut the wood, assembled it, added wheels and stained the cart. The 9 square game required me to cut the PVC piping, glue and build the frame work. I had enough money to purchase a wheeled trash bin to store all of the piping in when the game needs to be stored or transported. I was also able to purchase a Giant Jenga set with a storage bag that the children will be able to set up in different locations easily; inside or outside.

SON Ministries had their 10th Anniversary Summer Camp Celebration in June and I was able to bring my completed Eagle Scout project; help set up the outdoor games and enjoyed playing with everyone there. Everyone loved it! They all had so much fun playing with everything.

I want to thank everyone at SON Ministries for giving me the opportunity to have fun and also be able to complete my Eagle Scout Project.  I will continue to volunteer for this great organization!

Note from Editor: At SON Ministries, one of our core missions is to come alongside the community as they serve their neighbors. Brennan’s story is a great example of someone bringing their own, unique skills to the table to support our programming in a different, fun way. Do you have a great idea? Come to us, we are dream catchers for our volunteers as well as the children we serve!



Volunteer Empowerment

Tara McConaughy

Kid’s Club Leader

We could not do what we do at Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries without the volunteer-impact.jpgwonderful support from volunteers. As the Kid’s Club Leader for the Family ESL Program this year, I have had the wonderful opportunity to see volunteer empowerment in action first hand on many occasions!

Here are just a few examples:

One rainy evening, the younger children had to stay in the “quiet room” while the middle school children were playing a game in the gym. Needless to say, some of the younger boys were dying to play ball sports in the gym. To solve this problem, one of our teen volunteers helped the boys set up a bowling game with cones and a basketball. The boys were so engaged, they forgot they even wanted to play in the gym!

One of our regular volunteers has a passion for creative writing. Over the course of a month, she spent time with each grade level teaching them about creative writing, giving each child their very own notebook, and helping each grade write AMAZING stories together. After her time with each grade, there were always a few children who decided to spend the rest of their evenings working on a story of their own!

We were blessed by two sisters who volunteered to start a children’s choir that met every Tuesday during Kids Club. They used their talents to engage 10 young ladies of all ages in learning songs to perform for our end of the year talent show.

What little girls don’t love to dance? This spring, a volunteer came to us who is a dance teacher by day… and she allowed us to use her as a dance teacher by night, too! She lead children through stretches, drills, skills, and even taught a dance routine to many of our young ladies!

Through all of this, the volunteers were using their own gifts, talents, creativity, and passions to serve through building relationships with children. What is your gift? What is your passion? How can you come alongside us to build relationships with children in need?

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

For information about volunteering, e-mail

Outreach Multiplied

Sarah Florimonte

Development and Communications Associate

IMG_2761Last Thursday, we put out a simple call out on Facebook, “IMMEDIATE NEED: We are in need of a light meal tonight for the children at the Family ESL Program! If you or your group can provide, please e-mail Thank you!”. This was new for Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries and was prompted by one of our new goals at the Family ESL Program this year: feed all the children at the program a light meal. We have learned that many children show up with the Family ESL Program without having eaten dinner; due to a variety of reasons. We also know that learning is harder on an empty stomach.

Throughout the year, many partners have stepped in to help us with this. The Junior League of Columbus- Kids in the Kitchen, Chick-fil-A Market of Hilliard, Amlin Methodist Church and others have all stepped in and provided dinner In addition to groups, many individuals stepped in brought bread, meat and milk. But this Thursday, we had a blank on our calendar.

Within ten minutes, we got a message. “How many children are there that need a light meal tonight and would pizza be acceptable? Larry Perman.”. “Yes! Pizza is acceptable and about 100 children!”, was our quick answer.

That night, 25 cheese pizzas showed up at the door of the Family ESL Program. Not only were we able to feed the children that night; we were able to feed the adults. The smiles on their faces were infectious. The central staff was smiling for a different reason; none of us knew Larry. We wondered, how did Larry hear about SON Ministries? Why was he even following us on Facebook if he had never been involved? At SON Ministries we like to say, “People are our priority-RELATIONSHIPS are our goal!” How is it even possible someone gave us such a blessing that we had never crossed paths with? So, we asked..

“…Someone from your ministry spoke at New Hope Church several months ago and we were so impressed with the outreach to these families… I have SON on my Facebook account and felt led to provide the pizza when I saw the need yesterday…God Bless, Larry”

This response was a blessing to us that God is leading people to our ministry through the outreach we engage in to reach those who can help in addition to those we can serve. Thank you, Larry for your encouragement in all of our outreach and thanks for the pizza!!

Please DONATE TODAY to support SON Ministries’ year-round programming.



By Lydia Dunn, Assistant Recess Leader Kid’s Club

Over the course of the past three years working with SON Ministries, many “truths” about children and people have been solidified through different interactions. Namely, all people want to be loved. All people want to be accepted. All people want to feel happy.

Recently, another “truth” was set in stone before my eyes and heart. All people want to feel needed. All people want to have a purpose.

Sometimes children struggle when they first arrive to Kid’s Club as it has been a long day at school, work, etc., and they want the comfort of their family. A young boy was struggling in particular. I was blessed to watch him gradually open up and become more comfortable, walking in the doors with a smile instead of tears. However, he still was not acting fully “present” and I was determined to figure out what would make him grin from ear to ear.

Through some experimentation, I discovered that the young boy needed a task. He wanted to help pass out the hand sanitizer in preparation for snack. Later, when he saw the need to clean-up from snack, he jumped at the opportunity. This boy needed to feel needed. Like all of us, he desperately wants to make a positive impact on others around him.

I made a little acronym for the word “purpose”:blog








What do I mean by this? Simply, having a purpose means that you understand how incredibly important what you are doing is to a larger picture.

To countless incredible volunteers at all of the programs of SON Ministries, I am here to tell you that you are needed! We love you and hope that you are filled with a purpose when you walk through our doors.

To our parents and children, you too are needed! We learn as much from you as we are teaching (sometimes we learn even more)!

I am continually blessed by how each individual (staff, volunteer, parent, or child) comes together to make SON Ministries a place of love and fulfillment.

handsAt SON Ministries we see every person created in God’s own image: each has a PURPOSE and a VOICE.

Tick Tock

By Rachel Vallette

Teen Intern 2014/15

Paid Staff 2015/16, 2016/17

“Baby Room” Family ESL Program


Tick Tock Tick Tock

We are all trying to soak in the last few minutes of calm before the door opens and chaos begins. I am laying on the floor looking at the fluorescent lights. The room is set up, clean and ready to go.  That is the last time we will see the floor for the night.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

There is a knock at the door and they all come flooding in. Children already crying, some ready to run and others still resting their eyes from the car ride.  A mom passes me her child, her baby and I can see the fear in her eyes. The fear of leaving her child with someone she doesn’t know and who does not speak her language. I start to bounce and won’t stop until I hand the baby back to his mom in three long hours. I hear a crash and whip my head around. The other kids have already gone and emptied the baskets of toys.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

I look at the clock and it’s only seven. There is screaming in my ear. I have to make two bottles, get tissues, and read a book, all while bouncing. Non stop bouncing. The next two hours  I am moving nonstop but time moves very slowly. Throughout the night I barely sit down. I run from child to child trying to care for their every need.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Four bottles made,  nine diapers changed,  five tears wiped,  ten books read, and many songs sung.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

The floor is no longer in sight.  Toys are spread out everywhere. As I walk to the next child still holding the first in my arms bouncing for his comfort, I trip on yet another block. There are cheerios on the floor after falling out of little hands. It’s loud, it’s crazy, and I love it.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Parents are starting to come back from class. One mom opens the door and the children all start to cry. We move as fast as we can getting each child back to their mother and telling mom about the night. There are many smiles and everyone is happy.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

The night is over. All the babies are gone. It is now time to clean, and we all move as fast as we can. In no time at all the room is clean and the lights are off. We close the door to a now quiet room. It will be waiting for us for another night.

Tick Tock Tick Tock

My job is the best part of my week. It’s crazy and it’s loud but the people are amazing. I have learned so much being there. I admire these mothers who know little English and have never left their baby. They are handing over their prize possession to me, so they can go to class and learn English and have a better life. It is the best feeling.  At the end of the year I get to see these moms who now know English.  We now have a relationship and a community. The smiles on the faces at the end of the night will always have an imprint on my heart.

Tick Tockimg_7760


Sharing the Nativity…


SON Ministries’ Staff

img_2270On the final night of Kids Club before break, we had the opportunity to share the beautiful Nativity at UALC The Church at Mill Run with the children.The Nativity is originally from Italy, is life sized and a true work of art.

Thank you to David White of UALC for coming to be a special guest with the children. David said, “(It was) tremendous fun and God was on the move.The volunteer and staff team did a great job and the children were very inquisitive.Thank you for the invitation.”


SON Ministries: We build up COMMUNITY one respectful, empowering relationship at a time.

Healthy Food Served with Love

Taylor Richardson

Assistant Recess Leader, Kids Club

snack-blogThis is my second year being with Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries and Kids Club, which is a part of the Family ESL Program. I have had the wonderful opportunity to assist in feeding hungry children at snack time, which is just one of the many aspects that SON Ministries is dedicated to in the fight to alleviate suburban poverty.  Our program has been blessed with the ability to shift from a quick not super nutritious snack, to an atmosphere where children are now sitting down with one another, talking and laughing about their day, and enjoying a meal of healthy food.

Through partnerships and collaboration we are now able to provide healthier more substantial food than ever at Kids Club.

One night at Kids Club, a middle school girl expressed to me that snack time is the one moment of the day where she felt stress free. She elaborated by saying it was a brief time in her day where she wasn’t worrying and that she could enjoy without being bothered.

What a magical thing good, nutritious food can do for the soul! No child deserves to be hungry and without a source of healthy food. At Kids Club, we use snack time as a way to show these children we love them, we care about them, and we want to celebrate them!

At SON Ministries, we feed children year round – body, mind and spirit.

Welcome and Warm

The morning after our Winter Wear Coat Store 2016 a parent wrote about her experience and asked the principal at her school to forward her comments to us. We were sooooo blessed… and want you to be BLESSED too. – Alison Rooney, SON Ministries’ Director of Programs

14856071_1237322616290492_2921870330194945052_oI wanted to take a second tonight before bed to say thank you for keeping (my daughter) in mind for the Winter Wear event. It was one of the greatest things (she) has been given. She is so grateful for the adorable coats and hand made scarf she received. The way (you) had this organized was amazing. We walked in and there was people everywhere. First thought was oh no this is going to take forever. But within 15 minutes, (a volunteer) found us and began taking (my daughter) shopping. She was so friendly and open to what (my daughter) had to say. She truly made the 10 minutes of picking out a coat all about her!

What I enjoyed most was never once did you have a feeling of being judged, unwelcomed, or even unwanted.

So thank you again for opening another door for an amazing experience for (my daughter).

And the best part of all this, (my daughter) mentioned she would like to donate her old coat to someone in need since she’s outgrown it.

I would love it if you could forward this email just to show my appreciation for this amazing event.

I am extremely grateful for the event, now I do not have to worry about Winter Wear!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

You all took away a little bit of the stress of the upcoming winter and my baby girl’s basic needs ♡

-A Parent , Winter Wear 2016

At SON Ministries, we offer HOPE to children and families facing suburban poverty by offering a respect-filled HAND UP.

Food, Fellowship, and Friendship…

By Alison Gessner Rooney

Director of Programs

Food, Fellowship, and Friendship -across 27 different nations – including the USA. 


Last Thursday evening, volunteers, staff, children and families of the Family ESL Program joined together for our Annual International Thanksgiving Potluck.

A best estimate is that 250 people total were in attendance – a new record!

Our amazing Volunteer Potluck Team, “Larry’s Team”, even rolled out two more large round tables as more eager guests arrived!  (A big shout out to Joy, Larry and “The Team”.)

Women dressed in beautiful traditional clothing – children “dressed up” too – I saw ties and special sweaters and fancy dresses – bringing out the very best for this unique party invitation.

Together we enjoyed foods from all over the world, proudly prepared with loving hearts and hands, eager to share and make real a “tangible” from their home countries – now so far away.

img_1041Together we experienced  a joy-filled talent show by the children of “Kids Club” – featuring acts as diverse as Michael Jackson and a traditional Thanksgiving song… (lovingly taught in the earlier weeks by Teen Volunteer, Hannah).

Together we enjoyed smiles and laughs – universal languages superseding any other (real or perceived) barriers…

Together we connected – with our hearts and through our presence.

Through the Family ESL Program (English classes for adults, educational support and activities for children) we are simply peacefully in proximity, rallying around a joint/shared goal.

We have the God-ordained opportunity (and thrill!), every Tuesday and Thursday evening, and throughout the year(s),  to see and experience each other as more alike than different.

Together we not only seek a more harmonious world, we build one, in Jesus’ name.

At SON Ministries, TOGETHER, we build a more compassionate and caring community, (and world),  one respect-filled relationship at a time.

Put Your Coat On!

By Lindsay Phoenix
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to my children, “Put your coat on!” In fact, I’m pretty sure every mother has.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to say those words, or want to say those words and have nothing but a worn, dirty, ill-fitting coat to offer your child. Or worse, nothing at all.
img_0919When my husband and I first heard about Winter Wear , a dignity coat store in Hilliard, and its goal of getting brand new coats to kids who need them, we couldn’t have been more on board.  Why wouldn’t we want to help families do the same thing for their children as we were doing for ours.  And the amazing thing about the coat store is that it really is the parents who are providing for their child.  They have to fill out the registration form.  They have to get their child to the store.  They have to pay for the product.  Winter Wear just makes it possible for us to come along side them, provide a warm, inviting atmosphere, maybe a little too much sugar at the snack table, and a big break in the price. I felt like the goal of the coat store was to give a family something they needed and the love they deserved.
So far, I’ve only served through one coat store shopping session (there are three more scheduled), but I’ve been amazed and humbled to watch different organizations and people who in isolation didn’t have the means to make such a store happen, but by coming together, had their resources, space, time, and talents multiplied through God’s goodness. Winter Wear is a partnership between Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries, Upper Arlington Lutheran Church and Life Community Church.  At the core of this service, Winter Wear wants to preserve the family’s dignity and my prayer is that each family feels this with every coat that is worn out the door!
If you would like to volunteer at Winter Wear, please visit: Winter Wear is also still accepting donations of new gloves and hats, email for donation information. Thank you!