EVART – Higher Ground Learning Center in Evart and Stanwood is seeking volunteers and registering families for fall classes.

Higher Ground Learning Center supports families through classes that “are designed to share faith, hope and love in a non-threatening and friendly atmosphere,” according to the center’s registration newsletter.

“When I have hard things in my life, it’s good to have people to call,” said Deb Booher, director of Higher Ground Learning Center. “Many families in our program don’t have that support. We’re working to give them support.”

There is no criteria or referral required to register or to participate in classes. Families choose which classes they wish to take, including parenting, quilting, knitting, nutrition, family literacy, financial fitness, alternatives to anger and faith-based classes.

Families may call ahead to register, but it is not necessary. Class in Evart begins Sept. 25 and runs through Nov. 13. Class in Stanwood begins Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 22.

“What happens a lot is word of mouth,” said Booher. “When someone finds the classes to be helpful and comfortable, they invite friends and family. Families select themselves.”

The program supports families of all shapes and sizes, said Booher. The center teaches single adults, married couples without children and parents with children of various ages.

Adults and teens earn 10 points each night they attend, which can be used to “purchase” items from the center’s store. The store carries various items such as clothing, baby items, household items, cleaning products, seasonal items and some groceries. Evart’s store is transported by trailer from place to place, but Stanwood’s store is located in Stanwood Elementary School.

“Being on a limited income, people really need some of those products,” said John Chick Jr., a participant in Higher Ground Learning Center. “If you’re on a tight budget for food, you have one night a week where you don’t have to cook.”

“(The store) is set up like a very attractive flea market,” Booher said.

Chick said when he gained custody of his three children about eight years ago, he started taking classes.

“I didn’t have much experience as a parent,” Chick said. “It taught me some different techniques and ideas I haven’t thought of before.”

He has taken a parenting class, a cooking class and a class focused on relaxing.

“It teaches you how to avoid losing your temper rapidly,” Chick said.

Volunteer orientation is Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m at the Evart Free Methodist Chruch. All volunteers must pass background checks. Booher said volunteers may call ahead or come to the orientation to find out what positions are still needed.

The center is run entirely by volunteers, many of which teach classes related to their career field.

“Last year, we had two bankers from Chemical Bank teach finances,” Booher said. “Our literacy teacher last year was a very creative lady who I know has a very strong literacy background in her family.”

However, volunteers do not need field-related experience to help. Volunteers can help prepare home-cooked meals, serve meals, clean-up, unload the store trailer and set up the store. There also are volunteers needed to work in the nursery and with children of various ages.

“What has worked best is two-people teams,” Booher said. “Sometimes the varieties of challenges can be a bit much for one volunteer. When (a volunteer) needs to be gone, the continuity of the class continues because the other volunteer can pick it up.”

Last year, there was a need for volunteers to remove empty boxes from the store, as well as sort and label items. Booher said she is hoping there will be more volunteers to help set up the store this coming fall.

Although volunteers are not given compensation, Booher said, volunteers can “experience change in their own lives and watch families’ lives being changed, too.”

“I think it helps our community come together,” Chick added.

For registration information, call Love Inc. at (231) 779-1888 or email highergroundosc@loveinccadillac.org.