Storm damage to nonprofit’s building cancels summer reading program and others

Damage at Pearson Foundation

PEARL, Miss. (WLBT) - A Rankin County summer reading program was forced to stop operating after the building was damaged during storms.

The Pearson Foundation will soon reopen but not after losing precious time with students, volunteers, and equipment insurance didn’t replace.

“It was raining inside the building,” said Pearson Foundation president Jarvis Ward while pointing to a newly repaired ceiling and fresh paint. “It completely disrupted and displaced our ministry operations”.

Pearson Foundation President Jarvis Ward points to the repaired roof and ceiling and fresh coat of paint inside the facility. Source: WLBT
Pearson Foundation President Jarvis Ward points to the repaired roof and ceiling and fresh coat of paint inside the facility. Source: WLBT

A giant oak tree crashed through the roof of the Old Whitfield Road facility on December 15th causing damage that halted their Summer Reading Institute.

More than 50 area children participate in the mentoring and after school programs at the Old Whitfield Road and the Payton Garden Apartments locations.

“Our program is actually primarily targeted towards helping those kids K-5 to third graders,” said Ward. “So by not having the program we missed out on an opportunity to help some of our students”.

Until classes ended in May, the after school program was held at Payton Gardens.

Pearson Foundation mentor Tyler Gaddis, President Jarvis Ward, mentor Gary Smith and mentee Antwan Agee meet at the Payton Garden Apartments site to discuss Saturday's cleanup at the Old Whitfield Road location. Source: WLBT
Pearson Foundation mentor Tyler Gaddis, President Jarvis Ward, mentor Gary Smith and mentee Antwan Agee meet at the Payton Garden Apartments site to discuss Saturday's cleanup at the Old Whitfield Road location. Source: WLBT

“Last time I’ve been here I taught them math,” said 15 year old Tyler Gaddis.

The Pearl High School student misses the kids he helps with homework and reading.

“I was in their places too being mentored,” said Gaddis. “So I would like to give back to the other kids”.

14 year old Antwan Agee wants to join the Air Force when he graduates from Pearl High. He has access to computers and help with homework through the program.

"I'm not a mentor. I'm a student, but the people who help me here, they're nice," said Agee. "They help me every time I come home from school".

Gary Smith is a senior at Jim Hill High School and plans to be an architect.

He likes building things and shares that enthusiasm with younger students.

"I like to help them read and make words sound better to them and make them more focused on reading," said Smith.

Saturday volunteers will be cleaning and moving back into the building for the start of the August session.

"We are here to help the students and the parents, and when we can't meet or operate or serve it impacts the community," added Ward.

The grand reopening will be held Saturday July 27th.

If you would like to volunteer or help the foundation, CLICK HERE.

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