Twice a week, classrooms at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Rehoboth Beach are full of English language learners.
They come from all parts of the world – Sri Lanka, Russia, Syria, Central America – and many work in local restaurants or the poultry processing industry.
This year, program director Jesica Sepulveda said more than 100 people have signed up for the 10-week English classes. There are four levels of instruction, from beginners to advanced.
Retired pastor and Rehoboth resident David Kaminsky is one of several volunteers who teach classes for the English as a second language program. He works with advanced speakers and offers a crash course on American civics and culture.
“Holidays and the form of government, we do a lot with that,” he said.
The Lutheran church has offered ESL classes since 2003, starting with 25 students in its first year.
Sepulveda said the program is free but there is a $20 fee for materials. Childcare is available, and there is rolling registration for anyone interested in joining.
“We're flexible with enrollment and try to accommodate everybody,” she said.
Sepulveda said the program costs about $50,000 a year to operate, and their primary support comes from a two-year $50,000 grant from the Arsht-Cannon Fund – a charitable fund that partners with nonprofits to provide support for the Hispanic community. The Longwood Foundation, Dollar General, Youth Philanthropy Board and Harry K Foundation also donate to the program, she said.
Christine Cannon, executive director of the Arsht-Cannon Fund, said the group provides a necessary service.
“I feel that I cannot say enough about the good that this program has brought to many immigrants and their young families. The in-kind use of classroom space and the strength and hard work of the team of volunteers from the eastern Sussex community have changed the lives of so many newcomers over the last couple of decades,” she said.