By Bethany Doudna
One can easily find a multitude of good reasons to volunteer for a charitable organization, from storing up treasure in heaven to bolstering one’s resume. Perhaps the most rewarding part of the Students Serving Moms ministry, however, is the long-lasting friendships that often result.
“This relationship between the student helper and the family often goes on long after the student leaves the ministry, for many years even,” explained Megan Reister, who holds a doctorate of philosophy in specialized education services and is the current head of the ministry. “I have heard stories where the helpers who much later are getting married, and they invite those kids from the families to be their ring bearers or flower girls.”
The ministry, which was originally known as Ministering to Moms, started informally in the 1990s with Kimberly Hahn.
“As the wife of a theology professor and also a member of the homeschooling community, she knew this network of mothers and families who needed some assistance,” Reister explained.
Hahn invited a few students over to her friends’ houses and introduced them to the families, and the community slowly began to grow by word of mouth.
“It was a very informal, grassroots kind of an organization,” Reister said, “in that the wives of the professors would get wind of a student who might be homesick, or from a large family, or might want to go into teaching him or herself, and might want to get paired up with a family to do some tutoring or babysitting.”
The Ministering to Moms community became very popular, and at its height actively involved 40 families and 60 student helpers.
When Megan Reister came to Franciscan University in 2014 as an education professor, she had a vested interest in the Ministering to Moms group because she thought it would be a great opportunity for education majors in particular who need experience with children. Within the next few years, Reister got married and had children of her own.
“At that point I was interested in the ministry from the angle of a mom needing an extra hand!” Reister remembered with a laugh.
It was shortly after this, in 2016, that Kimberly Hahn decided to take a step back from some of her ministry work.
“I was the only one on the planning team who was both a mother and a professor,” Reister explained, “so then it kind of fell into my lap, because I could be both the representative on campus and the voice of the moms in the community.”
After the change in leadership, Ministering to Moms changed from an informal, grassroots community to Students Serving Moms, an official Works of Mercy Ministry through Franciscan University.
Today, Students Serving Moms involves around 12 students and 16 families. The ministry still remains true to its original ideals of creating relationships, giving families the help they need and giving students the opportunity to serve.
Families who want to participate are required to be affiliated with Franciscan University in some way, perhaps via a family member who is an alumnus or who works at the university. Students who sign up for the ministry are required to complete a background check and safe environment training, and to be first aid certified. They then commit to serving the family that they are paired with for three hours each week.
“In terms of what those three hours look like, it’s up to the families and helpers to agree together,” Reister said. “We as the administrators are hands off in that regard. It can be just playing with kiddos, maybe cleaning and organizing or doing some yardwork. I’ve had some families request help in the evenings to help with bedtime.”
Anyone who is interested in learning more about Students Serving Moms is invited to contact them at [email protected]