WHO WE ARE
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.
WHAT WE DO
Our mission is to deliver footcare, new boots, basic necessities and the love of God to those in need.
“I wish you could have seen the looks on the faces of the men as the volunteers gently and carefully washed their feet. As each man was fitted with boots, you could feel the relief that he had boots on his feet that not only were new but were fitted especially for him! The atmosphere in the building was spirit-filled and joyous. Each day when on the streets, people walk by our guests as if they weren’t there. No one speaks with them or even makes eye contact. Last night, Harvest912 didn’t just care for feet, they cared for souls. Our guests felt like they mattered. Thank you again for not only providing much needed footcare and new boots but for making our guests feel that someone truly cares. You lifted spirits and fed souls.”
Betsy Wiest, St. Patrick’s Haven, 9/29/2021
Betsy’s kind words, written after one of our clinics, capture precisely what we at Harvest912 strive to accomplish. Our primary mission is to provide accessible, no-cost foot care to those in Northwestern PA impacted by homelessness or economic disenfranchisement. Harvest912’s foot care clinics operate monthly and are staffed by local podiatrists who provide foot assessment, basic foot care/first aid, and referrals for follow-up care while our community volunteers provide foot washing and spiritual support. Each guest also receives a backpack filled with new boots, socks, blankets, seasonal necessities, and hygiene kits. Our clinics were initially held at a variety of venues, such as St. Patrick’s Haven, in downtown Erie. However, with the significant increase in homelessness and job loss due to COVID throughout the area we recognized the need to bring our outreach to the broader community. With generous financial support from the Hamot Heath Foundation and the Erie Community Foundation we recently purchased and retrofitted a bus as a Mobile Foot Care Clinic. The Harvest912 Mobile Clinic, outfitted with two exam stations and two shoe-fitting stations, is a self-contained one-stop shop where guests have their feet washed, receive basic assessment and foot care from a medical provider. Services are provided in a climate controlled, spiritually-centered, welcoming environment and guests leave with new boots and a backpack filled with personal necessities . To date, Harvest912 has provided foot care, distributed new boots and backpacks to over 150 folks in need and in 2022 we expect to expand our services into the rural counties surrounding Erie with the goal of serving an additional 50-100 guests.