A range of free programs for children and youth will begin by month’s end for the new school year at the Columbus Salvation Army, serving a dual role as a Christian church and as a social service outreach locally.

Capt. Jodi Sladek, who leads the church with husband Capt. Alan Sladek, said the offerings for any family are an important part of The Salvation Army’s role.

“We do it partly because we might be the only Jesus that people meet,” Capt. Jodi Sladek said. “We’re here to offer a hand up to people.

“Our slogan includes the phrase, ‘Hand to man, heart to God.’ We want to continue to offer a safe place for young people here.”

The Salvation Army perhaps is best known for its annual Red Kettle Campaign each November and December in which volunteers solicit funds that cover costs of its food pantry, summer camp for youngsters and to help residents with utility bills.

A free Ice Cream Fellowship event will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 at The Salvation Army office, 2525 Illinois St. in Columbus. The gathering will give parents an opportunity to sign up youngsters for activities, which include:

Salvation Army Youth Groups — beginning at 5 p.m. Sept. 7. These gatherings will include supper, music and drama and groups. Groups include Moonbeams prekindergarten and kindergarten; Sunbeams girls for grades 1 to 5; Explorers boys for grades 1 to 4; Rangers boys for grades 5 to 12; and Girl Guards girls for grades 6 to 12. During group time, the youth work on material and earn badges.

Homework Hangout — offered from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Monday to Wednesday. This is a time for youth to work on their school assignments in a safe setting. It also allows students to help one another while seeking help from adults as well.

Teen Bible Study — offered from 5 to 6 p.m. Mondays for youth ages 13 and older.

Literacy — for youth who have trouble reading. Handled by appointment.

The programs still have a need for volunteers.

For information, contact Jodi Sladek at 812-372-7118.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.