We met in the dining area for an early breakfast prepared by Kay, who’s been taking great care of us this week. Today the plan is to visit and volunteer at the Freedom School. The Church for All People runs one of the 21 Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools located in Ohio. This program is an 8-week summer literacy program that also provides breakfast and lunch for students up to 8th grade. Zack, our van driver, shuttled us to Lincoln Park Elementary, a nearby neighborhood school. We were excited to see T.J., Marshall, Noah and Chris walking up the sidewalk to the school. They were among the group of youth and children we’d met and had fellowship with at church on Sunday.
If we’d been sleepy before, we certainly were wide awake after joining with the scholars and staff in the gym in a rousing group activity called Harambe , which is Swahili for “let’s pull together”. This is a morning ritual that helps build the kids up with motivational chants, singing, and dancing before starting their morning literacy activities. Because of the last-minute cancellation of a Read-Aloud guest reader, team member Mark graciously stepped up and volunteered to be the last-minute fill-in. Doug quickly created a paper hat, and voila, Mark entered the gym as none other than The Cat in the Hat! After he finished reading his Dr. Seuss selection, Mark was joined in the front by some students and was encouraged to “strut his stuff” by showing off his dance moves, which entertained all of us!
Freedom School staff assigned each of us to a different class of students, which were grouped by age. The morning was spent immersed in reading activities followed by outside recess time, more literacy activities, and then lunch. Our group had only been scheduled to stay until lunch started, so we thanked the scholars for letting us share time with them in class. We were all impressed with the dedication of the Freedom School staff in keeping kids engaged in their literacy activities. What a great program! Staff shared that students who participate in this summer program enter school academically strong in the fall.
Boarding the van again, we were shuttled to the Reeb Avenue Center, which was previously an elementary school that had closed 5-10 years ago and then was repurposed as a Southside Columbus community center. Katelin, our guide from Church for All People, met us there and gave us a grand tour after we ate at the Roots Café located on the bottom floor of the center. As evidenced by our clean plates, we all enjoyed our delicious meals! The Reeb Avenue Center has classes for adults, which includes drug and addiction support groups, space for a Boys and Girls Club program, and the Roots Café and market, which has fresh produce for sale that’s supplied by the Mid-Ohio food bank.
We ended our day by spending about three and a half hours touring and volunteering at the Charitable Pharmacy located in Livingston UMC, which is also located in the Southside community. Once again, we were amazed by another ministry made possible by the passion of people living out their Christian faith. Jennifer, who heads the pharmacy, said that approximately 65 people receive free prescription medication there every day. Several pharmacy interns are part of the program and meet with and counsel each person that comes in. Our husband and wife pharmacist team members, John and Sara, were inspired by the vision and the incredibly hard work it has taken to pull this ministry together. We wrapped up our visit by refilling medication boxes used in the pharmacy area by pulling from the supply of donated medication stored in the basement of the church. John and Sara organized and headed this activity while the other team members provided the legwork and carried boxes up and down the stairs.
Tired, but thankful for the many opportunities we were given to serve today, we rode back to the church and eagerly dug into another great dinner provided by Kay! We shared our experiences and impressions of the day with Katelin, who left us with a video of a documentary on the history of Southside Columbus produced by WOSU, a local television station. Our very fulfilling day ended with devotions in our favorite place, the meditation room. God has certainly blessed us in this place!