Higher Ground concludes successful spring session
EVART — Reading has not always come easy for Melissa King.
While the Evart resident enjoys reading, King said she has struggled for a long time at comprehending what she reads.
However, King now feels more comfortable about her reading comprehension, crediting the classes offered during the recent spring session of the Higher Ground Learning Center at the Evart Free Methodist Church.
"I'm in the Reading is Fun class," she said. "It's been great for me. Between the instructors and my classmates, I've been able to learn a lot and get better with the short stories we have worked on."
Thursday night classes spread over the last two months have helped King find confidence.
"It's definitely helped me," she said. "I feel like I can help other people with their reading and comprehension."
Presented by Love INC (In the Name of Christ), Higher Ground concluded its eight-week spring session program on Thursday night. The family-focused program is designed to offer encouragement, support, knowledge and networking opportunities through a variety of classes for participants, said Higher Ground Director Deb Booher.
"Participants come the first week and try to come up with a goal they want to achieve by taking one of the classes," she said. "Some want to learn something, others set different goals. Some are looking for job skills and set a goal to learn those skills. Others want to learn about hobbies."
"The goal can be as simple as setting a goal of spending the night together as a family, which is great. Each of them come here because they want to make a difference in their life."
There are no restrictions to participate, Booher said, and instructors, participants and volunteers help make each week run smoothly.
"We have a volunteered-prepared meal, where families can come and enjoy dinner together," she said. "They spend time eating together and talking with each other. Everyone feels welcomed in a non-judgmental environment where they are eager to learn.
"We have gotten to the point where participants feel free to tell us what they like and what they want to learn about. That's really what Higher Ground is all about — it's about making relationships.
"In just eight short weeks, I've seen changes in people. They've improved their lives, they look forward to coming here. I've seen the changes and it's amazing."
Joel Clifton, an agronomist with Morgan Composting, had around 14 participants show up each week for his gardening class, which covered a variety of topics from vegetables, weeds, the recent frost, beneficial bugs and pests.
"I think Higher Ground is important because it brings people together who want to learn," he said. "When it comes to gardening, I think it's important people know they provide food for themselves and be self-sufficient. It also means they don't have to pay the high prices for food they can grow for less."
While participants are in classes they are earning points that can be used after to "buy" things from the makeshift store, such as personal care items, clothes and toys, Booher said.
"The volunteers help unload and load the trailer every week," she said. "They are always working hard. It takes about 30 volunteers each week to make this work."
Volunteering for each of the two yearly sessions has kept Carol Stevens, of Evart, busy.
Nearing her 91st birthday, Stevens helps set up the items for the makeshift store, but really shows up to meet the people.
"I really enjoy being around people and this is a worthwhile endeavor," she said.
That endeavor has become a blessing to the church, said Pastor Mark Bullock.
"We are getting to meet people we want to minister to," he said. "It's been very good for the church and the community."
Meghan Woodward, an intern with Love INC, said the Higher Ground session has been something she found to be an amazing thing for to experience the last eight weeks.
"Basically, we all have challenges in our lives," she said. "The thing about Higher Ground, though, is people want to be here. Families want to be here, the volunteers want to be here. That's not always the case in programs, especially if they are required to attend."
Woodward, who has spent much of the last eight Thursdays with the teen group, said Higher Ground has provided the opportunity to people spend time together to make positive changes in their lives.
"People need that hope," she said. "It's not only the people want to come for the meal and classes, but the volunteers, too. It creates a vibrant atmosphere of positivity."