EVART – New friends, life lessons and skills – These are what Higher Ground Learning Center participants have taken away from this fall’s series of courses.

“I love seeing people build relationships in our community that wouldn’t happen otherwise,” said Deb Booher, director of Higher Ground. “I observe that at every single session. People who would not come together – both volunteers and families – come together at Higher Ground.”

Higher Ground is located at Evart Free Methodist Church and at the Stanwood Elementary School. Both locations support families through free classes that “are designed to share faith, hope and love in a non-threatening and friendly atmosphere,” according to the center’s registration newsletter. Before classes each week, the center serves families a free meal.

As fall session comes to an end, volunteers and participants are beginning to reminisce on what they have learned throughout the program. The last class in Stanwood was on Wednesday, and the last class in Evart is on Thursday, Nov. 13.

“It’s hard to tell who is the most blessed – the participants or the coordinators,” said Booher. “My feeling is that when we get to know each other, almost anything can be resolved and made better.”

Participants agree with Booher.

“I most enjoy getting together with different people who we wouldn’t normally see,” said John Chick Jr., Higher Ground participant.

Aside from the social aspects of Higher Ground, Chick said he also enjoyed the classes.

“I’ve learned different cooking ideas in the Healthy Harvest class,” Chick said. “I’ve also taken parenting classes to learn different ways to deal with my three daughters.”

Families choose which classes they wish to take, including quilting, knitting, nutrition, family literacy, alternatives to anger and faith-based classes.

“I’m learning how to balance my checkbook,” said Sue Groh, Higher Ground participant.

“I come here because my grandma asked me if I wanted to come with her, so I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it out,’” said Dakoda Groh, Higher Ground participant and ninth grade student at Chippewa Hills High School. “I’ve learned more stuff about the Bible and I’ve made more friends. Higher Ground is a fun place for everyone to come.”

On Thursday in Evart, the center hosted a life skills class, a financial fitness class and a parenting class, among others.

Chris Foster, who teaches the life skills class, led a discussion on how to make cleaning products out of ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, laundry soap, liquid fish detergent and chlorine bleach.

Adults and teens earn 10 points each night they attend, which can be used to “purchase” items from the centers’ stores. Each 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. All of the items are donated.

“People who brought donations don’t even come here,” Booher said. “They said, ‘We knocked on our neighbors’ doors.’ Their neighbors didn’t even know what Higher Ground is, but they still donated.”

Both Stanwood and Evart centers will start a new series of courses in the spring, but the date is yet to be determined.

There is no criteria or referral required to donate or to participate in spring classes. For more information, call Love Inc. at (231) 779-1888 or email highergroundosc@loveinccadillac.org.