The nation embraced the No Child Left Behind initiative a few decades ago, but an East Feliciana Parish event morphed a step further to include all possible family members. The Community Appreciation Festival, held on August 6, focused on needs, resources and solutions for all ages.

The effort was organized by Providence Baptist Church No. 1 in Ethel and the JK Reed Community Resource Center. A series of rainy days prompted a move from outdoors to indoors at the East Feliciana Parish Vocational Learning Center on Plank Road in Clinton.

Reverend Cedric Murphy said the broader scope helped the event garner more community support and participation than if it remained a back-to-school event. “I just converted that name to Community Appreciation Festival,” he said. “I did one like this about five years ago, like two years before the pandemic.”

This previous event featured gospel music, including a prison singing group. The recent event featured entertainment by Providence No. 1 Baptist Church Praise Dancers and the band Oointed Singers. “We incorporated things that we used to do when I was trying to grow my church about 10 years ago,” Murphy said. “I wanted to bring it all together in a total community function.”

The effort found dream ground once the groundwork was laid. The elderly found support from representatives of the Council on Aging and Grandparents Helping Grandparents, a group founded to help grandparents raise their grandchildren.

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“Why wouldn’t grandparents bring their kids here because it’s not just for kids?” Murphy said. “There is something for them to get out of the situation. I wanted to create a win-win, win-win situation for the whole community.

Other vendors and exhibitors included Rosebuds Inc., Aetna Insurance, RKM Primary Healthcare, United Cajun Navy, Southeast Community Health Systems, Baton Rouge STEM and Louisiana Spirit Crisis Counseling.

Hundreds of backpacks were donated by Providence No. 1 Church and the Reed Center. Facilities were provided by East Feliciana Parish Schools. Other food and fundraising donors include Big Star Foods, Shoppers Value of Baker, Robin Turner Eubanks, Gail Horne Ray, Todd Terrell and David Jett.

Enthusiastic applause and raised hands were an indication that a faith-based component was evident and appreciated. “Oh my God we’re closing it, but what a wonderful time we had in East Feliciana Parish today,” Murphy said as the event drew to a close. “Our praise dancers wrap it up, but we had a great time today, being a blessing to our community.”

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