With Christmas day dawning, charitable organizations and the community come together to give to those who may not have a holiday meal.
"In the last two days, we provided 83 ham dinners for families to cook at home," Harvest House's Lori Joyner told The Log Friday. "It's a huge blessing to be able to do what we do."
Each dinner was complete with rolls, macaroni and cheese, pork and beans, pineapple, cake mix, frosting, oil and a liter of soda. Joyner, the organization's executive director, said they also provided families in need with additional food, to help bridge the gap with children out of school for the holiday break.
As a Christian non-profit, Harvest House operates a thrift store and food pantry on Mountain Drive. They have been serving the Destin community since 1985.
So far in 2013, Harvest House has served a total of 4,450 people, which Joyner said is an incredible accomplishment.
"I look at the numbers and wonder how we do it," she said. "We have a wonderful community that helps us with our food pantry, whether it's churches or individuals."
As the executive director of Destin Harvest, Chris Leavenworth told The Log his organization's mission is to bridge the gap between food surplus and hunger in Northwest Florida.
"We're picking up, on average, about 100,000 pounds of food a month," he said, adding that they deliver to about 40 different feeding programs between Okaloosa and Walton Counties. "This is incredible, because it means that organizations are not having to turn people away because of the donations."
Given the holiday season, Leavenworth said there is a noticeable increase in his operation.
"The need does heighten," he said.
Destin Harvest began operating in 2007, picking up surplus food from area restaurants and delivering it to various groups. Since then, they have started working with grocery stores and will grow to a total of three refrigerated trucks by January.
Leavenworth said they are currently seeking community sponsors to help support the Destin Harvest mission.
Giving back to those in need is something that never gets old, Leavenworth told The Log.
"It's tremendous," he said. "It doesn't lose its reward, especially when you meet the people you are helping."
Although Destin is considered an affluent community by most, Joyner says there is a big need for groups like Destin Harvest and Harvest House.
This year alone, Joyner said she began counting "new" people, meaning individuals that have come in for the first time.
"We had 696 new people," she said. "They are so appreciative. It relieves a burden, especially right now with the holidays."
To learn more about Destin Harvest and Harvest House, visit www.destinharvest.org and www.harvesthousedestin.com.