Partnerships were Key to Safety Education Program

This Week News

Upper Arlington News

Traffic program is collaborative effort

Letter To the Editor (appeared May 8, 2014):

On April 17, the Hilliard community responded to a call to collaborate on a unique community-education program: the second module of a customized program on traffic safety uniquely designed for recent immigrants and refugees.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our partners: the Hilliard Division of Police; officers Hyda Slone and Mike Deaton; The Church at Mill Run, which donated space for the program; and Upper Arlington Lutheran Church member and SON Ministries volunteer, Michele Kurfees, who first approached us with her desire to “do something” in the face of the tragic accident in October that took the lives of six members of an Iraqi refugee family.

We are so grateful to have been able — through partnerships — to develop and offer continuing education on safe driving practices for newcomers to our community. Fifty-eight adults attended the second module and 80 attended the first, which was held in November. Community volunteers also simultaneously interpreted, and many questions were asked and answered.

As a Hilliard-based nonprofit organization, we are committed to responding to both known and emerging needs in our community. We can only do this through the collaboration of many partners and volunteers, was exemplified by this most recent collaborative, and, we hope, healing, community effort.

Alison Gessner Rooney
Director of Programs,

Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries

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SON Ministries

By Judy Mathis, Operations Coordinator, Serving Our Neighbors (SON) Ministries 




Every person has a voice and a purpose
elationships are a priority
olunteers are the heart of the ministries
Inspiration comes from the unexpected
oticeable impact is happening in the community
od has an amazing plan beyond understanding 

Offering resources, programs, and fellowship
nrestrained joy seeing children light up with smiles
espect-filled hand up giving support and encouragement 

Navigating over hurdles
ach day bringing its challenges, joys, and blessing
Incubating dreams toward positive changes
iving hope to children and families
Hastened through transforming connections and relationships
uilding trust, respect, and love for one another
n mission to alleviate poverty
Rallying people and organizations into partnerships
Striving together for the best for our neighbors, for our community

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Diverse Learning

By Ciara Alexander, OSU Masters of Social Work Intern 2014

PolicemanSON Ministries unites a very diverse population each night at Kids Club, with parents, children and volunteers bringing unique views and experiences under one roof. Additionally, this diversity has been experienced through Special Guests at Kids Club this winter!

The first volunteer, Michele Kurfees, invited Officer Paulus of the Columbus Police Department to teach safety and raise awareness of “the Officer is your friend” here in this country.   This addressed a special need at Kids Club, as one transition to the United States that many of the immigrant and refugee families go through is to understand that police officers here are trustworthy. Secondly, Dr. Magic, a local dentist, came to do a wonderful magic show.   The children were mesmerized by disappearing scarves, coins and rabbits!   Also this winter, a park naturalist from the Columbus Metro Parks visited with furs, skins, and several little critters with which the children were able to interactively learn about nature.

Group pictureWe are thrilled to see the Kids Club children embrace these enrichment/learning opportunities.   We are learning that, due to limited resources/disposable family income, for most of the children we serve, Kids Club is their only opportunity for extracurricular activity outside of school.    Additionally, the Special Guests, in generating greater levels of engagement, also help us develop improved pro-social behavior. 

Do you have knowledge on a topic that would interest our children? Do you have a passion to share?  Do you play an instrument of would you like to sing?   We invite you to join us as a Special Guest at SON Ministries’ Kids Club or Free Summer Lunch Camp for Kids as we work to facilitate diverse learning!

 At SON Ministries, we bring HOPE to children and families in need by connecting them to people, resources and a Hand Up.  

Group Diverse Learning

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Kiss a Pig?!!

By Pam Vallette, Program Manager, SON Ministries

 pigJ.W. Reason Elementary school in Hilliard recently had their second annual Penny Challenge to raise money for the Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids (Summer Camp).   The Penny Challenge teaches the school goal of “take care of others” and is a great example of one of the many ways that the Hilliard City School District partners with SON Ministries in support of children in need in the District. During the Penny Challenge, children brought loose change to school and the classroom in each grade level who raised the most money… to see their teacher KISS A PIG!!  The children charted each classroom’s progress until the big day came when the winners were announced. 

The school gathered for an assembly in the gym.  There was such excitement buzzing in the air.  First, they watched a photo slide show from Summer Camp 2013.  When they saw pictures of shaving cream fights, soccer games, and art activities, the children got huge smiles on their faces.  Our hope this summer is that at least 100 of these children will attend summer camp at J.W. Reason Elementary to receive a nutritious lunch and participate in enriching activities.  52.25 % of the 488 children at J.W. Reason receive free or reduced lunch during the school year which is a national indicator of poverty.

Then, the big moment came!!  The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium was kind enough to bring Rachel, a young pot-bellied pig for the celebration.  When Rachel saw the crowd, she squealed and the children cheered.  The results of the penny challenge were announced…an estimated $1700 raised! and several lucky teachers committed to kissing the pig including J.W. Principal, Jacki Prati and Alison Rooney, Director of Programs for SON Ministries.    A roar went through the crowd as the children chanted “Kiss the pig, Kissthe pig, Kiss the pig”.  One by one…but with some hesitation… each adult kissed Rachel the pig!!!  What a satisfying moment for these children!!

Let’s create more great moments for children!  Consider making a donation to support Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids.  To donate now, click here!

At SON Ministries we nurture DREAMS to alleviate poverty.



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Brave and Determined

By Pam Vallette, Program Manager at SON Ministries 

jdjdjdjMy heart is full.  Reflecting on my experience from last night at Family ESOL/Kids Club, brings tears to my eyes.  We began a class about how to find, apply for and interview for a job.  Our audience is adults from many countries who moved to the U.S. to start a better life.  They attend our program to learn English.  Through a partnership with Salvation Army, they are now learning how to find meaningful employment that will allow them to support their families.

During the class, I had the pleasure of speaking with 3 Muslim women.  Their stories are remarkable.  One woman is a pharmacist in Palestine.  Because her license is not valid in the U.S., she is unable to work in her profession.  She plans to take classes and obtain her license in the U.S.  She told me, “I just want to contribute to society”.  Another woman has a vocational diploma in early childhood education from her high school in Jordan.  She is determined to work and is currently taking classes to obtain her GED.  Her dream is to obtain an Associate’s degree in either nursing or early childhood education.  The 3rd woman still has very young children at home.  She has the same dream to gain education and work, but says, “it is not time yet.  My children are still too young”. 

There is so much more I could share.  I told them I often felt lonely when I was home alone all day with my young children.  They all smiled and agreed and we had a moment of mutual understanding.   But, they face obstacles I never faced.  They shared that their husbands are not necessarily supportive of them working and in their culture, they must have their husband’s permission.  Getting permission to come to English class is a “baby step” towards achieving their dreams.  On top of that they have to learn a new language and new customs about how to receive an education and navigate the job market. Through their English class and the Family ESOL/KIDS Club Program they have become each other’s support network, and the deep friendship they share is evident.

I am truly blessed to be serving these women through my work with SON Ministries.  They are brave and determined.  My heart is full. 

At SON Ministries we see the DIVINE in each person, each has a PURPOSE and a VOICE.


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Class Intended to Bridge Cultural Gap on Traffic Laws

Church at Mill Run

michele picBy KEVIN CORVO  ThisWeek Community News
December 21, 2013

“I know they passed a test, but I think there are still things, literally lost in translation.”
–Michelle Kurfees, Organizer of driver education class

When Michele Kurfees learned an Upper Arlington police officer was critically injured in an Oct. 18 crash, she soon puzzled out it was her neighbor, Shawn Paynter.

Her other concern was who else was involved.

Paynter was responding to a robbery call at a Henderson Road fast-food restaurant at 1:35 a.m. when his cruiser, with lights and sirens activated, struck a Toyota Corolla that ran a red light and then stopped in the intersection of Riverside Drive and Fishinger Road.

A family of six immigrants from Iraq — four daughters ages 2 to 16, and their parents, Eid Badi Shahad, 39, and Entisar W. Hameed, 31, were killed. None were wearing seat belts, and the 2-year-old was not a child’s car seat, accident investigators said.

“I felt a burden to do something … I thought, ‘we can do something,’ ” said Kurfees, 52, of Upper Arlington.

Kurfees helped organize a Dec. 3 class taught by Hilliard police to help immigrants better understand the rules of the road, including how to properly yield to emergency vehicles and the proper use of seat belts and child restraints.

“I thought we can do a better job of helping (immigrants) understand (our traffic laws),” Kurfees said. “I know they pass a test, but I think there are still things, literally, lost in translation.”

She realized she did not have to go far to find those she sought to help.

Kurfees is a member of the Church at Mill Run, which is the second campus of the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church.

Serving Our Neighbors Ministries teaches English literacy classes from 6 to 9 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday evening at the Church at Mill Run, 3500 Mill Run Drive.

More than 500 adults and children through the seventh grade are registered to attend the free classes, provided through a cooperative effort of SON Ministries, the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church and Tolles Career and Technical Center.

Kurfees said using part of the language classes for driving education seemed like a good idea.

“(Kurfees) came to us with this idea and we helped make it happen,” said Kim Emch, executive director of SON Ministries. “It was on her heart to do it and it was amazing to watch. Many said it was helpful and thanked us.”

Hilliard police officers Mike Deaton and Hyda Slone taught the class Dec. 3 at the Church at Mill Run.

They considered the effort a success and plans are under way for a second session, tentatively scheduled for January.

“It was eye-opening,” Slone said. “I thought they knew a little more (about traffic laws).”

She said some of the problems can be attributed to differences in culture.

Slone said she learned in Puerto Rico that police officers drive with emergency lights on at all times.

“Here, police sometimes run to a robbery with lights and no sirens, so (the suspects) won’t hear them coming,” Slone said.

Because a translator was needed to ask and answer questions, progress was slow, prompting the call for an additional class at the start of next year, Kurfees said.

In addition to traffic laws, the participants were taught about seat belts and child restraints and were even provided donated car seats.

Lydia Emch, a senior at Hilliard Davidson High School and the daughter of Kim Emch, currently is collecting donations of car seats.

“We noticed a lot of families weren’t using them or didn’t have them,” Kim Emch said.

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Good Tidings Christmas Store – Hilliard 2013
(A Dignity Christmas Store, a partnership between SON Ministries and Cornerstone Christians Fellowship, with support from BMW Financial Services and New Life Christian Church)

By Betty Tom Denzer, SON Ministries Volunteer and Board Member

Good TidingsLast Wednesday evening, it was so nice to walk into the Good Tidings Christmas Store  at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship and feel so welcomed!  The positive energy level was amazing! There were many volunteers anxiously waiting to be trained and joyfully be part of the experience. A SON Ministries staff member did a wonderful job briefing us and giving us tips on how to work with families.  Families stood at the doorway watching and listening as we volunteers were then lead in a blessing over the evening, while holding hands in a circle.

As a volunteer Personal Shopper, my husband assisted a husband and wife who had 5 children. We escorted them around the tables with our arms full of toys.  The most exciting gift was the pair of high heel slippers for their 4 year old!   As we got to the check-out line, their total came to only $12.00 – for TEN NEW and beautiful gifts!

But wait, the (supremely hard working and dedicated) Volunteer Checkout Clerks then told the family their total  would only be $7.00 because the person in front of them had donated $5.00 for the next person in line!!!!

The Mom looked surprised but grateful!!!

When we offered gift wrapping, the husband and wife at first decided they would take supplies/paper home. However, when the couple got to the gift wrapping station to get their supplies, the volunteers warmly invited them to be creative right on the spot. I think this couple had the best time doing this activity!!!    Actually, the husband showed some of his creative talents!!!  They left with all their shopping done and wrapped!!!

The next family we assisted was a mom with 3 children. While waiting to pay for her gifts, she told me that her 8 year old did not believe in Santa anymore and had told the 2 younger siblings that “Mamma buys presents for Christmas and since she has no money, there will be no gifts this year.”  So won’t they be surprised…including the 8 year old…!!!  She left with all presents wrapped and ready to be hidden until the big day!!!  Another SON volunteer came over and gave this woman a big hug – clearly a relationship underway…

I was then greeted at the door by a mom wanting to shop for her 13 year old twins.  While I was an Americorps VISTA with SON Ministries, I had met this mom and gotten to know her two children.   Though I hadn’t seen them recently, we had first met 2 years earlier, the summer they arrived to this country.    The children participated in SON’s Hilliard Free Summer Lunch Camp for Kids right away that first summer and then that first school year at the Family ESOL/KIDS Club Program.

What a wonderful reunion for us at Good Tidings and a great opportunity to catch up after not seeing this family for a year!

We just stood there and screamed, hugged each other like little kids… As my husband and I helped her shop, she informed us that her husband is doing well and healthy now.  The children are doing well in school. Her son has talents to become an artist one day.  She is now employed and working at Marshall’s in Hilliard!

It is these SON Ministries success stories we want to share. How can you explain to someone about the impact of hours of listening, friendship, encouragement, providing job search skills, English language skills, making connections to resources, providing programming and serving as an avenue for her children to make friends, that has allowed this immigrant family to now be so well-integrated into the Hilliard community.  For the first time last night, this mom wrapped presents for her children beaming!  God is sooooo good….

So, my experience  last night was not just about serving families in need, it was much bigger than that…  Partnerships/relationships are pretty powerful.  Seeing Pastors Joseph and Irma Chon at work in their Church home with the support of SON Ministries was so wonderful. That church came alive last night!!

 I felt like God had his arms around me, took me aside and whispered in my ear saying: “Betty, I want to remind and show you again who I am and what I am all about. Do you get it and will you help me?”

What do you say when God calls?

At SON Ministries, through PARTNERSHIPS, we strive TOGETHER for the BEST for our community… 

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A message from Executive Director, Kim Emch, and the SON Ministries team.    

Only God knew He would bring 143 full families to our Winter Coat Store for Children, where a total of 363 children would receive NEW winter coats, hats and gloves that would keep them warm this winter.

Only He knew how to quiet fear in the hearts of His people so they could open themselves to love people who are so very different from themselves.

Only He could attract hungry children and their families from 45 different countries to a summer lunch program and a school year ESOL/Kids Club program in Hilliard.

Only He could GIVE plenty of unique opportunities to 376 community volunteers to share their faith and talents.

Only He would welcome the children and parents in such a way that they feel loved and now trust us with their needs and most vulnerable questions.  

Only He could GIVE the courage to boldly ask thousands of people to give their time, talents, and treasure to serve children in poverty in our community. 

At SON Ministries we are counting our blessings and giving thanks for the guidance and focus God brings to us.  We give thanks for those He brings to us – each in a unique and individual way.

Return your blessing by Giving.

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VolunTEENS at SON Ministries

“You have no idea how proud I am to be able to call myself a volunteer for the SON Ministries, and what an impact it has had for me to serve with you under God’s name.” – Hannah  

On Friday October 4th we were thrilled to receive this email from one of our faithful teen interns, Hannah!  Hannah served 100.3 hours at our Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids showing her ongoing dedication to SON Ministries.  

Hi, Alison!

Our Darby Interact Club participates in an annual local project which involves education/community. We have about 8 members who are participating in that committee that I am chairing for. 

I was wondering how you would feel about a pair of them coming in to serve at Kids’ Club each week (on a Tuesday with me) for 4-5 weeks.  If you are open to this idea, I will gladly arrange the volunteers’ schedules so that it fits the Kids’ Club’s needs (which month, which week you need more volunteers).

I also recognize the great importance of the members to clearly understand the guidelines they should follow while volunteering with SON ministries, and I will make sure to completely go over the “cheat sheet” that you have sent me via email, in addition to whatever orientation or further training they need to complete. 

You have no idea how proud I am to be able to call myself a volunteer for the SON Ministries, and what an impact it has had for me to serve with you under God’s name. Thank you so much for being such a great leader and I hope you have a great weekend! :)


Hannah is a SON Ambassador – someone who loves partnering with the children and families at Serving Our Neighbors so much she now recruits, on her own time because she wants to, the people in her circle of  influence!  How about you?  Are you ready to join the movement – together Serving Our Neighbors? 

Volunteers have always been the heart of SON Ministries.  By design we are a volunteer based and community building organization.  Relationships begin with our volunteers.  WE build up COMMUNITY one respectful, empowering relationship at a time.  

A significant group of our faithful and dedicated volunteers are teens.  This summer, 76 devoted teens served nearly 4,000 hours at our Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids. These teens are an exemplary model of being an ambassador of SON Ministries. By spreading the word among their circle of influence, they are inviting others to join the movement…Serving Our Neighbors!

We LOVE people by Serving Our Neighbors which fills the hopeless with hope, reconnects the marginalized with our community and inspires all to join the mission!  We feel blessed to serve in this vibrant community which is filled with citizens and leaders who care deeply about their neighbors.  Start with us; grow with us; own with us, join the movement!  Become a SON Ministries ambassador!   We look forward to incubating more DREAMS in the coming year as we build community, work to alleviate poverty and strive together for the BEST for our community. 

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The BIG Thank You!



Thank you for supporting our mission through the BIG GIVE.


Somewhere, somehow, you invested your heart in SON Ministries.  Maybe you volunteered at our Hilliard Free Lunch Summer Camp for Kids or our Family ESOL / Kids Club Program. Maybe you faithfully prayed for us in supporting and serving more children and families in our community.  Maybe, somewhere along the way, you fell in love with our mission and encouraged our goals.  Or maybe you supported us financially.  However you got involved, we are profoundly grateful, and hope you’ll stay tuned and be a part of our journey.  There is a sense of joy, peace, and love in this ministry.  We thank you for making the magic happen.  

tripe picture

 Your generous donation will lead to:  

1.  Building up COMMUNITY one respectful, empowering relationship at a time!

2.   Bringing HOPE to children and families in need by connecting then to people, resources and a hand up!

3.  Nurturing DREAMS to alleviate poverty

4.  PARTNERSHIPS, striving together for the best for our community!

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