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A Year In Review: 2020

2020 is a year that none of us could have ever imagined.

Through it all, we have maintained hope, practiced resiliency, and remained determined to carry out our mission.

This year has created an internal struggle for people working in the human services world – while physical distancing and face coverings may be some of our best illness prevention measures, there are also serious consequences for mental health and wholeness to consider, especially for socially marginalized groups.

Despite these additional burdens, we have continued to do what we’re meant to do – serve all people and love all people, no matter what. We believe in and practice infinite grace and ultimate forgiveness. Differences are celebrated here. Forgiveness is unconditional. This is our heart.

I wanted to take a moment to share with you some the successes we’ve seen this year, thanks to our loyal supporters and dedicated staff.

In February, we kicked off with a fantastic Home Again Luncheon. We had a record 330+ guests, heard from a panel of young adults who have experienced homelessness, purchased artwork from the clients who created pieces in Art Therapy classes, and witnessed the power of friendship and forgiveness in our annual client story video: Two Truths, One Bond

As March brought us COVID-19, we quickly shifted focus and assessed the unique needs of our clients and residents. Our weekly food pantry distribution began serving almost double the number of households, all while both unemployment rates and food prices increased. It was a blessing to be able to increase capacity in the middle of a crisis.

In April, the Benevolence Fund was created as an additional resource for families and individuals needing emergency assistance, covering the gaps in aid systems already in place. Contributions to the Benevolence Fund allowed us to cover months of rent for those who lost their jobs during the initial COVID-19 stay at home orders.

Since April, the fund has also provided clients with everything necessary to get through the summer – gift cards for food and transportation, tablets for kids to access remote learning opportunities, board games, recreational activities, crafts, and weekly boxes of groceries from the Harvest Food Pantry.

We started the month of May strong with a very successful Giving Challenge campaign, raising $50,000 to support the Youth Drop-In Center and Outreach Services. Two local businesses, thanks to the support of two donors, made delicious sandwiches for clients for several weeks – The Overton and Nellie’s Deli. These efforts helped the local businesses survive and helped feed our clients every day.

In June, we vowed to continue Leading with Love because a racially and politically divided community does no good. At Harvest House, our core values include commitments to lead with love, challenge the ordinary, ignite hope, and validate diversity. These values are the bedrock of healing, justice, and reconciliation, and they compel us to take meaningful action. Our services are built upon a diverse community of love and connection. I encourage you to always ask yourself, “does this look and feel like love to the people around me?”

By July, the uncertainty around the future was producing high anxiety and depression. But, trauma is no stranger to us. We took some time to take a more in-depth look at Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and how they can affect us for the rest of our lives. ACEs can be anything from losing a parent to experiencing racism or bullying. Most people in the US have at least one ACE, but studies show that people with four or more typically have a higher risk of developing chronic health problems in adulthood. The primary mitigating factor is resilience. We learned that it’s never too late to learn resilience, and that it isn’t possible without community.

In August, we focused on hope and we found it in the most unexpected places. A young man beamed when he told me he was released from community control probation and he obtained his driver’s license within two days of each other. Now, he’s still on “regular” probation for another year. And this is something he could feel defeated about, but he’s not! He’s grateful for the direction his life is headed today. It’s these small wins that solidify hope and pave the way for the big wins of tomorrow.

September presented us with ample opportunities to celebrate the silver linings in life. Three young adults needed laptops to complete their GED. Our call for assistance was immediately answered. We were connected to the Sarasota Technology Users Group who donated one for each of them! Another client is a single mother of two who was struggling to get her vehicle back to working order. She kept putting her hard-earned money into repairs but something else always came up. Suddenly, a donor contacts us to donate a vehicle, and it was the perfect vehicle for this mom! Despite all the setbacks, where there is a will, there is a way. There’s a silver lining on every storm cloud.

This October, we set aside time to prepare for the coming year. We spent a few days in strategic planning prioritizing the coming year and discussing potential curveballs, including how our annual Home Again Luncheon will look next year. We hope you will join us for a virtual event in the last week of February to hear from the people whose lives you have changed with your support! Keep an eye out for details coming in January 2021.

As we prepare for the holidays and the close of 2020, may we all remember to focus on what’s most important to us: keeping loved ones close, going outside to enjoy the sunshine (or the rain), expressing gratitude for everything we have and everything we don’t. May we bond with those we find commonality and be kind and earnest to listen to those we don’t. May we always seek peace, find balance, forgive, and be the change.

With unconditional love,

Erin Minor, CEO

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