S.O.S. volunteer Brook Reinoehl contends with program participant Tristan Weaver in a heated game of War during a recent S.O.S. Kids Club.
By ANDY MCCAMMON
If it weren't for the Kids Club at Serving on the Street (S.O.S.) Ministries, 11-year-old Jay Ellis might have had a pretty boring summer.
"I'd just be sitting at home, doing nothing," he said.
But once a week, the soon-to-be North Clay sixth-grader took the bus to S.O.S. headquarters-- a converted two-story residence sandwiched between a diner and monument service on National Avenue -- and enjoyed games and activities tied together with a Christian theme.
He's already made more friends than he can count.
"I've met so many people I can't even name 'em all," he said.
Jenni Chamberlain founded S.O.S. ministries four years ago this month. The service began as a response to the growing problems of crime and drugs in the idyllic community where she grew up.
"I'm a lifelong Brazil resident, and I've seen a town that was rural develop all these urban problems," she said.
Her mission: to provide a weekly sanctuary for kids with less-than-ideal home lives.
"It's not just up to the government to handle those things. It's our job to step up to the plate."
The program started small, with a weekly activity-and-Bible-study session at the West Central Village apartment complex. Aided by volunteers and contributions from local donors, S.O.S. has grown exponentially, providing sanctuary to more than 200 children from widely varying family situations and economic backgrounds.
"They're all great kids, and their families are all great," she said. "Some of them just have different circumstances."
Chamberlain moved the service into the house on National Avenue in mid-March. The new location is large enough to accommodate the program's steadily growing enrollment and expanding slate of programs-- Chamberlain just began a program for the parents of S.O.S. children, and a partnership with Angel Food Ministries is also in the works.
Donations are the lifeblood of Serving on the Streets, and Chamberlain is quick to credit the people who help make the free service possible. The bus used to chauffeur kids to and from the program was donated, and Chamberlain got a sweetheart deal on the new S.O.S. headquarters.
She also partners with area churches, which collect donations from their members and field potential S.O.S. volunteers.
For more information on Serving on the Streets Ministries, contact Chamberlain or Assistant Director Jake Ooley at 448-8700.