Happy Birthday Harvest House: Local charity celebrates 30 years in Destin
Thirty years is a big milestone for any business, but for a non-profit it is even more exciting as operations are based solely on donations and the goodwill of the community. This year, Harvest House, a thrift shop and food pantry located on Mountain Drive is celebrating three decades of service to the Destin community. To help celebrate, The Log sat down with Harvest House Founder Jerry Ogle and Executive Director Lori Joyner to get the full history of the non-profit and it’s journey in Destin.
The Early Days
“I was sitting in church in the fall of 1984 and I heard a sermon about the needs of people who needed food, clothing and help,” said Ogle. “We tend to help at the holidays but their struggle goes on all year round. So, I started thinking about beginning some kind of outreach in our community to provide food, clothing and shelter.”
Thus, Harvest House was born right in Ogle’s home, even before he and his wife Claire had fully moved in.
“I had just got my house, and didn’t have a stick of furniture in it, but I was unloading food and toys and clothing for Christmas,” Ogle said of the winter of 1984.
From the beginning, Ogle said that he knew three things were necessary in order for Harvest House to succeed.
“First it needed to be self-sufficient, that’s where the idea for the thrift shop came in; and the second thing that I heard was that we needed to be prepared to take care of our own in this community.”
The third aspect, Ogle said was based on faith and continued obedience to God. He said that the entire non-profit is based on a passage of scripture and that is the driving force behind everything they do.
“In Isaiah 58:6-9, God is saying that if you help people with food, clothing and shelter, then when you have a need, he will come,” said Ogle. “We had a master plan and we just stuck to the scripture, and we just focused on that for 30 years. Our game plan is just to be obedient so the whole mission has been successful.”
Harvest House quickly outgrew Ogle’s small home and soon he started to look for a new location for the non-profit.
In 1987, he was able to lease a plot of land on Mountain Drive and began operating out of a small building that was already on the lot. After a few years, the ministry grew out of that location as well, and moved into the old Green Knight building on the corner of Main Street and U.S. Highway 98. This was just a temporary move however, as Ogle said he saw potential in the plot of land they had leased and decided instead of relocating permanently, he would raise money for a new building.
“I went out into the community and had an old fashioned barn-raising,” he said. “And Destin did what Destin does best, they came together when the community needed it most and they really helped us get this going.”
Ogle said all-in-all the community raised around $150,000 for the new building and all the labor and materials were also donated. The new building was finished in 1995 and is still serving as the Harvest House thrift shop and food pantry today.
There are no typical days at the Harvest House, explained Executive Director Lori Joyner. With the thrift store, the food pantry and the people, she said that each day comes with it’s own unique challenges and surprises.
“Every single day you never know what your day will look like,” she said. “You never know what’s going to happen, but it’s all good. It’s not a job, it’s the most exciting thing because no matter how many times I may not have slept well the night before, when I get in this house, I get energized.”
Every day at Harvest House begins with a group prayer and then employees and volunteers man their stations throughout the ministry. There is the food pantry distribution, the receiving and sorting room, the upstairs sorting and hanging area, the new boutique clothing area and of course the register.
“It’s just all one big rotation,” said Joyner. “People just drop stuff off here, we sort through it and people come here and buy it, then we go buy food with the money and give it out. It’s a huge movement, it’s amazing how many items come through this store.”
The food pantry, Joyner explained, is the heart of the Harvest House which currently serves about 315 people per month. She added that the Destin Wal-Mart donated a walk-in freezer a few years ago which allows the non-profit to distribute frozen meats, a commodity that previously was not available.
“We do individuals, families and homeless here in Destin,” she said. “What we do is we try to provide enough food for one week. When folks leave here they look like they have gone to the grocery store. We make sure that they have breakfast, lunch and dinner and we try to make it as healthy as possible with as much protein as we can and also provide hygiene with soap and shampoo.”
Thirty years in, Harvest House is still going strong, and now the non-profit looks forward to the next 30 years.
“Going forward we will just be continuing what we have done in the past,” said Joyner. “We aren’t going to change anything. I’m excited to be here and I’m excited for the next 30 years to see where the Lord is going to take us.”
Ogle agreed, saying that the success of the non-profit is only based on the faithfulness of God, and the obedience of his people in Destin.
“Christ came as a servant to give hope to those who are lost,” he said. “It’s really not about the food, it’s not about the clothes, it’s about who we represent and what he means.”
Although they are not changing the way they serve, the creative minds at Harvest House have come up with some new ideas to help celebrate 30 years in the community.
“We are launching our 30/30 Challenge,” said Joyner. “We are asking folks to donate $30 for 30 months so we can sustain our mission to keep our presence in Destin and keep food coming out of our pantry.”
The Harvest House 30-year celebration will kick off Friday, March 11 from 3-5 p.m. at 300 Mountain Dr. The event will feature free food, a slide show of the past 30 years, the 30/30 Challenge and the unveiling of the new Harvest House logo.
For more information visit www.harvesthousedestin.org or call 837-2277.