Mother and son team work to reach young people as tutors

By Tony E. Windsor

When the director of a local youth organization requested volunteers to support its mission to tutor school students, she was excited to get a "two for one" response from an area pastor. Joyce Sessoms, director of the Ark Educational Resource Center in Laurel, says it is sometimes difficult given busy schedules to find people able and willing to volunteer their time. The Ark relies on volunteers who donate time to tutor young people in support of the mission of the organization which is, "to make a significant impact on keeping students in school who might otherwise fall through the cracks."

Recently, when Sessoms sent out an email seeking volunteers she was delighted to receive an almost immediate response from a Slaughter Neck area pastor. Not only was he eager to answer the call for tutoring, but he requested to bring along his mother to help as well.

Pastor Troy Hazzard and his mother Betty, are now active volunteers at the Ark Center, both volunteering two days a week to help two students in the program. "I know how difficult it can be these days to volunteer with so many busy schedules, and we are so appreciative of those who have been faithful to our children with their involvement in the program," Sessoms said. "So, I was so excited when Pastor Hazzard responded so quickly to my request. Within two days he and his mother were already at the Ark volunteering."

Upon learning the background of the Hazzard family it leaves little surprise that this mother and son would so eagerly volunteer to work with a child. Betty Hazzard, the daughter of migrant farm workers, was raised in North Carolina. She recalls back in the 1940s when her parents came to Houston, Delaware to work in a migrant camp under the Libby, McNeil and Libby Cannery.

While her parents were working Betty, about five years of age, attended a special "nursery" in the camp which was operated by college students. Because the nursery required that parents pay a small fee for the nursery care, few of the migrant workers chose to send their children. "There were four or five college students working in the nursery and the only children that were there were me and my three siblings. These college students really doted over us. They would fix our hair and kept us clean. They would also bring us clothes to wear. I got my first toothbrush from them. They read to us and tutored us. They taught me my vowels and my ABCs. By the time I was able to start school I was ready for the second grade," Betty Hazzard said.

Betty said she believes that the care and time the students gave her and her siblings instilled early in her life a desire to care for and help children. The mother of nine sons, Betty has spent the majority of her life caring for children. Along with her own children, she also raised other children as a foster parent, a project she undertook even before retiring from General Foods in 1997 after 35 years of service.

Betty's son Troy, who pastors "For His Glory Ministries Inc." in Milton, says there is no doubt that his desire to help others is a direct result of his mother's parental style. "My mother was instrumental in forming us in our early life and showing us the power God has in our lives. Out of nine sons, she raised four who are in the ministry. Three of us have leadership roles, including two who are bishops," he said.

Troy graduated from Delaware State University with a BA in sociology. He attended graduate school at Southern Illinois University majoring in urban affairs/policy analysis.

After a 17-year career working in the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families with the State of Delaware, he accepted a position with Nemours Health & Prevention Services in Population Health. He works with Delaware clinics and communities around healthcare transformation.

Troy said he is excited about being involved in the Ark Educational Resource Center. "I believe I would be missing out if I wasn't involved in this program," he said. "What I do here is what I am. It is part of what makes up me. It is what me and my mother are all about."

Betty agrees with her son and says it is all about loving children. "That love says it all," she said. "When you love a child you make room for them. We want to listen to children and teach them. Sometimes it is necessary to demonstrate tough love, but most importantly whatever you do, do it with love," she said.

Troy said as a pastor he wants to encourage everyone to find the time to volunteer with a young person, but he especially wants to urge other pastors and church leaders to be involved.

"We need to get outside of the four walls of the church and find the time to reach out to help those who are not a part of our ministry," he said. "We need to sacrifice sometimes. I recognize that it is not something that makes money, but I promise that sacrificing your time to speak to a young person is so worthwhile. Like Jesus sacrificed for us, we should sacrifice our time and speak to a child. I believe this is a valuable part of the ministry."

This mother and son team also volunteer their time together on other projects that involve mentoring young people. Each year as part of the church ministry they work in conjunction with the Delaware State Police, the Sussex County Health Coalition, 1st State Community Action, the Division of Public Health, Nemours Health & Prevention Services and other community groups to host a three-day camp at Camp Barnes.

"The goal of the project is to reach out to children who are less fortunate and provide them with the tools they need to be successful," he said. "We work to impact them spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially; all of the areas that make a difference in their lives." He said his mother attends the camp and she and other volunteers "do all of the cooking." The camp has about 50 young people each year.

In addition, Troy and Betty Hazzard take part in the annual "Rock the Block" back to school event at Milton Memorial Park. Sponsored by Troy's ministry, youth receive a free book bag stuffed with school supplies and enjoy a free lunch, music, and games in the park along the Broadkill River.

Betty and Troy Hazzard plan to continue helping Joyce Sessoms and the Ark Educational Resource Center by donating the time as tutors and said they hope that others will follow suit and help to fulfill the mentoring needs of the program.

"The Ark is such a valuable resource in the community and we are excited to be able to spend time working with a child," Troy said. "We want to encourage everyone to find the time to reach out and touch a child."

For more about the Ark Educational Resource Center, visit www.arkeducation.org.

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