Annual church event gives kids, parents jump start to school year

Staff Report
Bishop Joseph Ford, pastor of Higher Ground International Ministries in Plaquemine, delivers a motivational message to parents during a “Back to School” event.

The transition from summer vacation to the school year comes with challenges that range from the purchase of school supplies to motivation of students to do their best academically.

An annual event at Higher Ground International Ministries in Plaquemine provided both for parents whose children will return to the classroom this week.

As part of the event, students received free bookbags and an assortment of school supplies.

The program also offered kids, parents and guardians motivational talks in hopes to get them on the right track for the start of the school year.

Trinity Ford organizes more than 100 bookbags for a giveaway during the “Back to School” event at Higher Ground International Ministries.

It’s not a new program for Bishop Joseph Ford, pastor of the church. The church has hosted the Plaquemine event more than 10 years, and 18 years before that in the town of Jackson.

“Our goal from Day 1 has been to share with the kids some lessons on social skills and social behavior at school, while also understanding that the child’s growth and development starts at home with the parents,” he said.

A large number of bookbags were stacked in the foyer of the church, free to each child.

It’s a project that begins months before the event.

Our goal has always been to serve the community,” said Trinity Ford, daughter of the pastor. “We try to be a blessing to the community because you don’t see to many things like this in small communities

Higher Ground International Ministries First Lady Shevelle Ford, Tamica Richardson and DeLawrence Mullens organize school supplies for giveaway at the annual “Back to School” event.

“We buy them ourselves, plus Sheriff Brett Stassi gave us a nice donation to buy the bags … he’s been a blessing,” she said.

The 2021 giveaway was back in the church one year after the COVID pandemic forced organizers who hold the event in a drive-thru format.

“Every year is different, but I think one of the problem this year is that we didn’t get to advertise this as much as we would’ve liked, but I also think the pandemic is still having an impact,” Bishop Ford said.

The school supplies and a free meal serve as a big draw for parents and adults, but Ford stressed the importance of the motivational and informational talks.

“This week, I shared with our mentoring program “Boys to Men” and “Dads of Destiny,” and let them know if they have grandkids or even older kids who need help with direction, we’ll be there for them,” he said. “The outreach plays a big part to the kids and adults alike is important in keeping students going the right direction.”

Church volunteer Judith Sonnier prepares hot dog meals for kids and parents during the “Back to School” event presented by Higher Ground International Ministries.

The outreach continues during the Christmas season. Last year, First Lady Shevelle Ford had a vision to give away 100 bicycles.

“It’s a good way to reach out to the kids, help the community and give kids something to do,” Rev. Ford said. 

It all plays a part in one of the cornerstone methods of outreach for a church, he said.

“We want to help everyone, and we want to reach out to the people in needs,” Bishop Ford said. “There will always be people in need and, unfortunately, it’s almost a continuous cycle in which some move on, but the Bible said the poor will be with us always and there will always be a time when someone will have needs – and it’s our mission to be there for them.”