Community Spotlight: Kari Vernon

There are so many incredible people living in Columbus, Ohio. We see many of them chatted about on social media, the news outlets both print and television, but what about our every day people? The people doing extraordinary things each and every day who do not get recognized like they should be recognized?

I was thinking about it and believe everyone needs their own spotlight, after all we are all unique and awesome in our own way. So, I decided to start the “Community Spotlight.” This is where I get the chance to spotlight people I’ve met or are in my life who I believe are extraordinary, because they are simply being themselves…and simply being awesome.

My first Community Spotlight is Kari Vernon. Kari is the creator of Family Mentor Foundation based in Worthington, Ohio. I was put in contact with her through a friend, and since then have met her and think she is a fabulous person who is doing amazing things for children in our community. Columbus is fortunate to have someone like this looking out for its children. Take a look at some things we talked about:

Tell me about Family Mentor Foundation.

The Family Mentor Foundation is a local 501 3 (C) non-profit.  Our mission is to create programs, services and partnerships that help meet the unmet needs of children in our community.  Teachers, schools, and administrators are faced with kids who come into the classroom with unmet needs on a daily basis.  Some of these needs are physical,some emotional and others physical.  These unmet needs, if not met have a direct impact on a child’s ability to reach his or her potential.  This is where the Family Mentor Foundation comes in.  The goal of the FMF is to create programs and services that begin to address and meet these unment needs. 

We are currently partnered with Columbus City schools and Worthington City schools.  In both of these districts we have implemented our Buddy Bag program at a handful of schools.  Our Buddy Bag program started out in 2013, when neighbors from the Worthington Community gathered together to create 250 brown bag lunches. These lunches were donated to local homeless shelters. One of Family Mentor Foundation’s early visions was to provide food to children who normally qualify for free, or reduced, school lunches. As we began researching schools to partner with, we found a need for this program right here in our own community.

During this upcoming school year the Family Mentor Foundation plans to distribute 250 bags of food each weekend to qualifying students.  Each bag is distributed on Friday and contains 10 individual size portions for a child to prepare themselves.

Why did you start it?

I envisioned FMF as a resource that is an extension of teachers, counselors and schools. We want to be able to come along side of the people who are working with students everyday and have programs in place that will meet the real unmet needs in their classroom.

Another reason I wanted to start FMF was to provide a service opportunity for our children, who at that time were beginning elementary school. We were convinced how important service is but didn’t know how they could be engaged in an activity that was bigger than themselves. So, providing an opportunity for children to be of service at our Gather and Give events and help sort and pack food is an essential part of this program.

Tell me what you anticipate for FMF in the future.

We are currently busy building the foundation of our Buddy Bag program.  It has been so well received within the community and the schools.  After our successful implementation of the Buddy Bag program the schools we are currently partnered with, we hope to starting tackling our waiting list.  We currently have 1,200 kids on our waiting list to receive our Buddy Bag program.

Our next goal is to start working on a couple of after school programs that will be offered to kids that will address some of the unmet emotional needs.  The after school programs will help kids learn tools and skills that will help to address and find solutions to advocacy issues, bullying, rejections and frustrations.

What did you do before this?

I currently hold a Masters Degree in Education. Before becoming the Executive Director of the Family Mentor Foundation I taught middle school for ten years.  I predominately taught eighth grade mathematics.  I won awards for my classroom management skills.  I love teaching and really enjoyed middle school students.

What events do you have coming up?

We are hosting a neighborhood food drive this weekend in the Crestview neighborhood of Clintonville.  We are still looking for volunteers to help distribute flyers and pick up food.  We have all of the information on our website.

We have two Gather & Gives coming up.  The first one is on September 27th and the next one is October 25th.  Our Gather & Gives are held at the Worthington Resource Pantry.  You can find sign ups on our website.

Lastly, we will be the beneficiary of the Charity Happy Hour at the Worthington Hills Market on Wednesday, September 30th from 6pm-8pm.  We would love it if you’d join us.

How can families be a part of it? Can children help?

Absolutely!  One of the things that sets us apart from other service oriented organizations is our ability to get children, even young children, involved in meaningful service.  The best way to do this is by attending one of our Gather & Give events.  The Gather & Give events is our service program where volunteer families and children gather together and fill Buddy Bags. 

We also hold neighborhood food drives through out the year.  This is a great opportunity for families to get involved.  This is a great way for families to walk around together and meet other people while supporting a great cause.

Tell me about your family – do you have kids, animals, etc.? Just a little about yourself so we get to know you personally.

I was born and raised in the Dayton area.  I have lived in Texas and Ohio as an adult.  I had my first teaching job in Texas.  I will never forget that first year of teaching.  I had a 7th period class of 8th graders who wouldn’t speak English the first couple of weeks at the beginning of the school year.  This class turned out to be one of my favorite classes ever.  I love teaching.  I am very passionate about advocating for children who need support.

I have been married for 12 years and have three children.  I have two daughters and my youngest is a boy.  My son was the first boy born in the last 40 years on my side of the family.  As a family we love to travel.  Our favorite place to visit is Siesta Key, FL.  We currently live in Worthington.

What is your favorite book?

I love answering this question.  My favorite book without a doubt is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.  I think I’ve read this book a dozen times.  I find something new each time I read it.  Whenever I get the chance I tell people about this book because it is amazing.  My second favorite book is Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  If I had to choose my favorite middle school book it would hands down be Esperanza Rising by Pam Munzo Ryan.

About cBus Mom

cBus Mom offers suggestions and reviews of kid-friendly activities in Central Ohio. I am a Columbus, Ohio mom and I like to get out and explore with my kids.

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