Lori Joyner, executive director of Harvest House, holds up her iPhone to share a video testimony from a man named Fred.



"I never take for granted the kindness that Harvest House has given me through the years," he said. "Times haven't always been so good. I've been here [Destin] since '81 and throughout the years Harvest House has helped me I can't tell you how many times."



"I'm not a lazy person," he continued. "I just need help like everybody else."



Harvest House is more than just a food pantry — although executive director Lori Joyner calls the storage room filled with perishable items the "true heart" of the Christian non-profit organization.



"You see the pain in a single mother's face when she comes to us for help," Joyner said. "Her children can't invite their friends over because there isn't any food."



For the past 28 years, Harvest House has been a place where families and individuals can go for a little extra help — whether it's a week's supply of food, a warm coat or even just a shoulder to cry on.



Inside the storage room, shelves are stocked neatly and organized by meals, breakfast in one corner and dinner and lunch in another. Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., those in need wait outside the pantry to meet with Joyner and fill out a small form to receive assistance.



"A lot of tears and emotions happen here in this little room," Joyner said.



The Harvest House was founded by Destin’s Jerry Ogle 28 years ago after his church hosted a holiday food drive.



"When it was over, he thought, 'What's supposed to happen to the people that are hungry the rest of the year?’ ” Joyner explained.



In 2012 Harvest House spent $40,000 on food, distributing it to 4,493 individuals staying in Destin to Mack Bayou Road. While the community helps to keep the Harvest House running — local organizations Destin Harvest and Mission Love Seeds will sometimes donate extra food — it can be a struggle to keep area stomachs from growling. Joyner said she started to see a major increase in need after the 2010 oil spill.



"This food will only last us two weeks," Joyner said looking around. "Since we've had so much rain, and seasonal work was cut short, we've had so many more folks coming in. Last quarter we served 190 people we've never seen before. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw that number."



It was part of Ogle's vision to implement a thrift store to help fund the organization — an intelligent decision, Joyner said.



Not only does the store generate income for the organization, but clothing items are regularly donated to families in need.



Harvest House only has five paid staff members, and only two of which are full-time. About 10 regular volunteers round out the manpower that keeps the organization running.



"It's a physical and emotional job," Joyner said. "There's never a dull moment. The folks that come in here are top priority. We want Harvest House to be a safe haven for the community."



Joyner said she has seen first-hand how a little bit of help can make a big impact.



"The sad stuff turns into joy," she said.



She tells the story of a woman that came to Harvest House because she didn't have enough money for a prescription.



"When they came in to the office, her husband wouldn't look at me," she said. "After we offered our services, he started to engage in conversation. They walked out with a whole new perspective. That's what the Harvest House does."



Sometimes, just lending an ear is all it really takes to make a difference, Joyner said.



"There's this saying, 'Life is fragile, handle with prayer,'" she said. "You never know — I could be on the other side of that desk."