THE HARVEST912 STORY
The Harvest912 story started in the midst of the turmoil, division and darkness of 2020 America. Tad and I, like so many others, felt the weight of darkness and hatred beat down on us relentlessly and wondered if and how we could defeat it. Our Pastor, Joe Gerhart at Flightpath Fellowship, had encouraged the church family to step outside of our comfort zones and to reach out with God’s love and light, to let the Holy Spirit work through us to bring that light to bear…easier said than done…what difference could we make? Then, one afternoon, as we were driving to the store, we stopped at a red light and noticed a homeless man asking for help. We immediately wanted to help him, but neither one of us had any cash on us and besides, odds were he was probably a scammer, right? Then we looked a bit closer and, just as the light changed, we noticed that he only had one shoe and was limping. The cynical thought “nice touch” came automatically, but we knew in our hearts he needed help.
As we turned the corner, I asked “Can we just buy him some shoes and bring them back?” Without hesitation, Tad answered “Of course…and some socks.” “And a jacket and some snacks” I added. But what size shoes should we purchase? We had only seen him for 30 seconds from 50 feet away, so we didn’t have any idea. As we stood in front of the stacks of sturdy boots, debating, a voice told Tad “9 ½”! We got the boots and other items, removed all the tags and miscellaneous packaging, put everything back in the box and headed back to the intersection, hoping he would still be there. At the light, we were several cars back, so I hopped out and walked up to him and said “Hey, bud…we noticed you were in need of some shoes so we brought you some.” He turned, looked at the box and said “That’s the right size! God Bless you!” and immediately sat down to put them on. The last thing we saw as we drove away was this man sitting by the side of the road with his back to the traffic, looking like a kid on Christmas morning, everything besides his new shoes and socks forgotten.
As we drove home, we felt the darkness begin to lift. It was all we thought about and talked about for the next few days and the idea was born – reaching out in a personal way and providing the most basic necessities to people in need. We could purchase shoes and socks and work to create an outreach within our community! Now we just needed a name. As I fell asleep, I kept thinking about being shown the right size shoe and the numbers 9 1 2 kept repeating in my mind. They were still there the next morning. I opened the bible, but being an absolute novice in this area, I simply looked over the names of the books not knowing where to start. Like a beacon, 2nd Corinthians drew me in and in Chapter 9, verses 9-12 I found the answer, and our name:
As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
This outreach was made possible by Our Heavenly Father, our church, and especially Pastor Joe who challenged us to listen to our hearts, be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and step out of our comfort zones. This couldn't have been further outside of ours. Harvest912 has taken on a life of it's own and is changing ours in the process. Thank You Flightpath Fellowship and Pastor Joe!
FOCUS ON FOOTCARE
A man in need, a pair of shoes and hearts opened by the Holy Spirit inspired us to start Harvest912; but research also supports the need for this outreach. Foot problems are common but are often overlooked, with up to two-thirds of homeless individuals reporting a foot health concern. Provision of footwear, socks, and hygiene kits as well as medical assessment and foot care are necessary and effective interventions.
Recent studies  related to foot conditions among homeless persons "report high rates of foot problems among homeless individuals across settings. Across studies included in the review, up to two-thirds of homeless individuals reported a foot health concern with approximately one-quarter of individuals visiting a health professional and one-fifth of individuals requiring further follow-up due to the severity of their condition." The range of foot problems includes both acute issues due to trauma or repetitive injury as well as manifestations of chronic health conditions and "can be attributed to a variety of physical, psychosocial, and service provision factors." The studies frequently attributed foot problems to damaged or ill-fitting footwear, lack of access to clean socks and basic hygiene supplies, as well as embarrassment individuals felt due to the condition of their shoes and feet. In addition, many homeless individuals may not be aware of foot care services or lack health insurance coverage.
The authors conclude that "homeless individuals often believe that healthy feet are important and are interested in receiving information about how to maintain adequate foot hygiene. Ensuring a private setting and cleaning individuals’ feet before the clinical exam may reduce embarrassment and encourage the use of foot care services. Since these individuals may not have material and financial resources that are necessary to maintain good foot hygiene such as clean water, soap, towels, nail clippers, and files, service providers should ensure that individuals have access to essential foot care items. Ensuring that individuals have clean socks and properly fitting shoes could help reduce the incidence of foot problems and improve mobility. Moreover, treating foot problems in these individuals may be an important step to addressing other unmet health and social needs of this population."
At Harvest912, we couldn't agree more! While our mission is a spiritual calling, our vision of providing comprehensive mobile outreach also addresses all of the intervention objectives described above. Our goal for 2021 is to purchase and equip a mini-bus with foot care and assessment stations where individuals will receive professional foot assessment and care in a welcoming, supportive environment. We know that foot care, properly fitting footwear, socks, and other basics are essential to foot health and improved general health outcomes for homeless individuals. It is also our belief at Harvest912 that the spiritually-centered atmosphere in our mobile clinics is equally essential and will ultimately create connections that can not only enhance physical health but also lead to improved social-emotional outcomes.
To learn more about our vision and our projects, click the 'Learn More' button below!
1. To MJ, Brothers TD, Van Zoost C (2016) Foot Conditions among Homeless Persons: A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE 11(12): e0167463. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0167463