Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries is especially busy this time of year.
The non-profit organization is seeking volunteers for its Hilliard Free Lunch Program, which offers a free lunch to children in the Hilliard City School District who are in poverty (they receive a free or reduced-price lunch during the school year) for nine weeks starting June 14 at The Warehouse 839, Country Ridge Apartment complex and Bayside Apartment complex.
"We have 675 volunteer slots to fill," said Kim Emch, executive director of SON Ministries, "because it takes an army."
Anyone interested in volunteering is asked to call 777-2222, ext. 8255 or visit freelunch@ ualc.org.
Emch said she learned that increasing numbers of children in the suburbs are at the poverty-level, so she started the Hilliard Free Summer Lunch Program in the summer of 2007.
"At the end of that summer, those parents who brought their children said, 'What are you doing next?' We said, 'What do you want us to do next?' "
The answer was homework help, so Emch started an after-school tutoring program in January 2008. The program meets two nights a week, ending May 27 (and starting back up in the fall) at Hilliard United Methodist Church.
"It quickly grew into this year-round, full-time ministry, so UALC -- The Church at Mill Run helped me to start a non-profit called SON Ministries Inc. It officially began on March 3, 2009."
Emch has about 300 volunteers helping SON Ministries, and more than a third of them hail from the Hilliard area. She said she is seeking a permanent space so they don't have to turn anyone away. They also will have a sundae fundraiser event Aug. 8 at The Warehouse 839.
In addition, Emch's knowledge of area community resources is so extensive that she has compiled a guide called Hilliard Helps, which lists area organizations, what they do, and how to contact them. To view it, visit www. hilliardfreelunch.com.
"As I've worked with families in need in the last three years and trying to connect them to resources, I've tried to learn about what resources are available. In doing that, I had the sense that there were more programs than I knew about."
Hilliard resident Emch recently held a meeting where representatives from the local organizations met and spoke. Another one is scheduled in the fall.
In addition, SON Ministries offers an "English for Speakers of Other Languages" course on 1-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays through May 25 (and resuming in the fall) at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church's The Church at Mill Run on Mill Run Drive.
Emch said the goal of the class is to help "people whose English isn't their first language to work on their communication skills. Their goals are to be able to interview better, and to be able to help children with homework better."
Nadia Rasul, who met Emch at a Hilliard United meeting, is one of the volunteers who work one-on-one with people who take the conversational English class.
"You form quick relationships with these people because they're very intelligent," Rasul said. "But when they try to speak English, that intelligence is not portrayed very well. When you're speaking another language, you can't express yourself very well."
"So they practice a few times. A lot of them have families, so they only speak their language at home and don't get a chance to practice it very often.
"You learn a lot from them, as far as the idioms that we use and the things that we take for granted."
For example, at one recent class, students were told about St. Patrick's Day and the customs associated with it. Then Rasul helped her student with what to say at the doctor's office and at the grocery store.
Rasul said she's volunteered for the class four times, and will try to continue to do so for two days a month.
"I am an avid volunteerist, so I like to find niches," Rasul. "This is a great program. She (Emch) does great work. Throughout Hilliard, people that use her services are just so greatly appreciative."