Shaun Sonia has a passion for helping family and kids. He comes by it honestly. His grandfather, William Sonia, Jr., was given to helping needy families, and Shaun’s grandmother, Elizabeth “Red” Sonia, served the needy by cooking meals for them.
Shaun continues his grandparents’ legacy with Sonia Inc.
Shaun founded Sonia Inc. about 8 years ago, and the organization received its 501(c)3 nonprofit status last July. The organization’s mission is “to connect Madison County youth in 7th through 12th grades with safe, positive adult role models who will offer support, guidance, and friendship and help the youth make healthy life decisions. Where success, opportunity, nurturing, identifying, and acceptance will help produce mature young adults.”
The letters in Shaun’s surname forms an acrostic for the values that Sonia Inc. works to instill in kids:
What They Do
Sonia Inc. introduces children and teens to life skills and opportunities that will help them succeed at their goals. Along the way, Shaun hopes to expose the kids to different life experiences that they otherwise may not have, all in a caring and nurturing environment. Adult volunteers will be given a background check before they work with kids.
Shaun grew up in the small town of Franklin, Louisiana with aunts, uncles, and grandparents who positively impacted his life. His extended family often found themselves around Red’s kitchen table, socializing and eating her delicious meals. “[Our family] had a close, intimate relationship. I wanted to make [Sonia Inc.] into what was instilled to me as a kid.”
“I feel personally that you can’t change a kid if you don’t try to help the parents. If the parents aren’t involved, I can do everything I can but once [the kids] go back to that environment it’s still going to be the same way. So we try to implement the family to make them feel important and put the ownership on them to make the child want to do better.”
Shaun knows that not every child has this, so Sonia Inc. can help take up the slack. “What I’ve noticed over the last decade or so is that most families don’t operate that way anymore. Whether this is caused by jobs or just the way life is now, you can’t really stay in your hometown and really have a close-knit family.”
This is why family involvement is such a big part of the organization. Sonia Inc. involves the child’s parents in the mentoring program when possible. Shaun says, “I feel personally that you can’t change a kid if you don’t try to help the parents. If the parents aren’t involved, I can do everything I can but once [the kids] go back to that environment it’s still going to be the same way. So we try to implement the family to make them feel important and put the ownership on them to make the child want to do better.”
“My main objective is exposing kids to things they don’t normally get to see in life. They might not have the parents who can expose them to it. I want to expose them to what life offers.”
Although Sonia Inc. works with low-income kids, Shaun emphasizes, “I don’t limit any person who needs help.” Shaun’s mother, Cynthia Ward, said of her son, “He has a passion for helping people. I’m grateful for that. I’m very grateful.”
- Substance Abuse Counseling Access
- Leadership Skills
- Employment Referral
- Career Counseling
- Business Skills
- Crisis Counseling Access
- Conflict Resolution Access
Back-to-School Jam, August 3, 1:00 – 5:00 PM
Where: Huntsville Botanical Garden
Last year’s Jam helped 275 kids, and Sonia Inc. got it all together in about 30 days. Back-to-School Jam is a free, fun, carnival-like event for kids and their families. Shaun says that there will be inflatables, kid-friendly vendors, free haircuts by local barbers, pie-eating contests, free book bags, and lots of yummy food such as hamburgers and hotdogs. Sonia Inc. hopes to include a city fire truck, health truck, and the police department for their free child ID program.
Wish list for the Back-to-School Jam:
- School supplies (Want to donate? Call Shaun (256)652-3604 for pickup!)
- Lots of kids to have fun!
- Meals from Red – Each month, Sonia Inc. provides food for the community, a tribute to Elizabeth “Red” Sonia.
- William’s Angels – Adopted 3 Angels for Christmas 2013
- Walk MS – Sonia Inc.’s team “Orange is the New Black” was formed for the May 2014 walk.