by Jordan DeWald

There is an unassuming building at the corner of Thomas St and Renfro St in Burleson. A passerby would have no idea hundreds of people walk through the doors of that building each month to have their most basic needs met, that tens of thousands of dollars are distributed to help vital bills be paid each year, and that the trajectory of families change by the relationships and education provided. The Harvest House of Burleson uses its approximately 6,000 square feet of space to do just that, and more.

In 1984, a group of Burleson area churches joined resources to begin a holiday give-back program. That year, they were able to help twenty-six local families. What they started has grown to be the ministry of Harvest House and that same holiday program will be helping more than two hundred and fifty families this year. Harvest House became an independent nonprofit organization in 2012. It serves the people in the entirety of Johnson County, as well as portions of southern Tarrant County. Their services have expanded to include providing food items, clothing, back-to-school services and supplies, financial assistance, and education.

Jennifer Woods, Executive Director of Harvest House, shares that they want all of the services at Harvest House to show dignity to the beneficiary. Their motivation is founded on Christian beliefs, modeling the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 22:29 to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Their goal is to not only meet the immediate need of the people requesting assistance but to also empower them.

Harvest House has three primary services it offers to the community: groceries, clothing, and financial assistance. They have an onsite food pantry where clients can receive grocery items at no cost to them. Additionally Harvest House partners with local families with school aged children to provide food items to make sure the kids have something to eat when school is not in session. A resale store is also on site, furnished with items donated by the community. Clients receive vouchers allowing them to shop in this store. Finally, a client can apply for financial assistance if there is a specific need that arises. Each client must register and provide specific documentation to receive all the services except for the food donations. The resources of Harvest House are limited, and the staff is committed to responsibly using the resources they are entrusted with.

The economic effects of the COVID-19 magnified the importance of the work of Harvest House. The need for assistance increased almost immediately in March of 2020. Since then, there has been an increase in working adults needing assistance, people who had never needed it before. The influx of people needing assistance with groceries led Harvest House to change its policies regarding applications for grocery assistance. People coming to only get food no longer must register as a client and provide documentation. Woods describes the level of need since the start of the pandemic as being like a rollercoaster with ups and downs and no trend to allow them to make projections. She said the one constant was that God always has provided the resources to meet the needs. They have always had enough. In the more than five years that Woods has been the executive director, she has witnessed that “God has proven the more generous we are, the more food there is.”

As the needed resources increased over the last twenty months, so has the giving by the community. Donations of groceries from locals, often collected through food drives, are the largest contributor to the food pantry. Schools, churches, and businesses consistently collect food items that keep the pantry stocked. Harvest House is also able to add to the food donations through its partnerships with numerous agencies and businesses including City Market, local Walmart stores, commissaries, and Harvest International, using financial donations that have been specifically earmarked for food purchases. Woods is clear to say without the community, Harvest House would not be where it is. The structure of welcoming donations allows community members to also “love their neighbor as themselves.”

Besides donations of food items and financial giving, Harvest House also accepts donations to their Storehouse Resale Shop. On the list of items they can accept is: clothing, household items, small kitchen appliances, toys, small electronics, and accent pieces. They currently cannot accept furniture donations simply because of a lack of space. These donated items are used in one of two ways. Items that can be resold are used to stock their store, which is open to the community. The purchases at the store allow Harvest House to fund their work as well. Additionally, the shop provides a place for clients to shop for clothing with vouchers. Items that are not in a condition to be sold are sold in bulk to a recycler. The money received from that sale goes back into the services offered to the community. So, every donation is valuable.

The dreams of the board of directors and staff of Harvest House are limitless. The one thing that is limited is their current space. They would love to offer training and education to help their clients bring about life changes with topics such as job training, dressing for success, and financial planning. Their store and food pantry could expand to receive even more donations to serve a greater number of people. They recently conducted a feasibility study, and the board is considering options for the organization’s future. Harvest House utilizes every inch of their current property and if more resources open, they will do the same with that property.

The doors of Harvest House are always open for people who want to learn more or wish to partner with it. The organization welcomes people who want to share their time, talent, or treasures. Keeping with their desire to be good stewards of their resources, Harvest House is transparent with its funding and structure. Woods welcomes anyone who would like to know more about the organization to talk to the leadership of Harvest House about the vision for the it, and tour the facility to see first hand how work is done.

How can you partner with Harvest House this holiday season?

  • Host a food drive (contact Harvest House first to determine the best time and what items are needed)
  • Make a financial donation through end of year giving
  • Clean out closets and donate unwanted items (check the hours for when an attendant is available to receive the items)
  • Donate money to go to vouchers for families on the waiting list for Holiday Friends
  • Make plans for 2022 to attend and support their events: Vineyard Vines- April 3, 2022, Harvest Feast- September 2022
  • Speak to a staff person about how you can volunteer in 2022