When he was in college at the former University of Southwestern Louisiana, Bishop Jerry Hebert used to play tennis at Burleigh Park in Jeanerette. 

His return to the park came Monday, when Hebert coordinated with Jeanerette city government for the return of free tennis lessons for children at the park. 

“This is history, '' Taylor said Tuesday morning at the Burleigh Park tennis court. “This is the first time we’ve come here.”

Hebert’s non-profit organization World Mission Inc. started in 2012 and is dedicated in part to providing children with free tennis lessons. The group first started in Morgan City, but over years expanded to Franklin and other nearby areas. 

The mission has garnered success as time went by, with more than 400 children being registered and taught for tennis by 2018. 

Hebert, a lifelong tennis lover, said he uses his vacation time each year to go to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, and during one vacation he made a presentation to a representative of the United States Tennis Association in New York City regarding the local work he’s done in the area. 

“I showed them we had done this traveling tennis camp in Morgan City and Franklin, and as far as I know there was no one else doing a traveling camp,” he said. “Everyone just did it in their town.”

“They wanted to know how we got this many kids showing up in this small town, and I said something had to be going on upstairs,” he added. 

Hebert approached the city of Jeanerette this year to expand the program at Burleigh Park. Mayor Carol Bourgeois Jr. said his interest fit right in with the city’s desire to see the park get more traffic. 

“Our objective was to kind of revive this facility,” Bourgeois said. “It’s certainly underused. It was resurfaced not too long ago and when he came to me with the idea I was all for it.”

Along with Jeanerette, Hebert said World Mission Inc. also extended to Patterson this year. In the fall, Hebert said he has another meeting with a USTA representative and will have the chance to show them the success of the program’s expansion. 

Hebert’s dream is to get his program into a USTA youth program called Net Generation, and possibly even having a tennis festival in the Teche Area. 

“I’ll be back this August promoting it,” Hebert said. “We do festivals better than anybody in the world, why not tennis?”

Jeanerette’s tennis lessons from the organization started Monday, with groups of kids showing up to the park in different sessions. The program ends Thursday, and no sign up is required.

Tuesday morning, children participating were given tennis rackets and immediately put into lessons with Hebert showing them the basics of the sport. Girls and boys were divided into two separate teams and were put through basic exercises as part of the experience. 

“These kids are really good, it’s impressive,” Terri Thompson, who helped organize the event, said. “We used to have tennis years ago in Jeanerette but it’s been dormant, we’re really excited.”