Every weekend Alexa Mills, 23, knows what to expect when she arrives to hang out with Lashae Hunter, 7, a second grader living in Southeast in a transitional home sponsored by the nonprofit House of Ruth. The little girl will hide behind a door and jump out suddenly to scare Mills.

Their play isn't just for fun, though. The fact that it's been consistent for over a year is even more important, said Mills, a District resident and a staff member at the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Lashae's living circumstances have shifted frequently in the last couple of years, as her mom has recovered from substance abuse. But Lashae's relationship with Mills has remained constant.

The House of Ruth, which provides assistance and housing for at-risk women and their children, is seeking adult volunteer mentors like Mills willing to commit two to three hours every weekend for a year to buddy up with children ages 6 and older. (College students are not eligible.)

These volunteers need the ability to "sincerely commit," said mentoring program coordinator Lin Lawson, and to be very flexible, since it's fairly common that kids don't show up (often because of their unstable living situations).

But get-togethers can include a visit to the National Museum of Natural History, where a bug exhibit recently fascinated Lashae and grossed out Mills. That's likely another reason, Mills said, that her young buddy got such a kick out of it.

For a volunteer application, call 202-667-7001, extension 301, e-mail houseofruth@houseofruth.org or see houseofruth.org.

-- Samantha Ganey

Lashae Hunter,7, (left) and her House of Ruth mentor Alexa Mills, 23, share a play date last summer at Union Station.