It has been almost 14 months since Hurricane Harvey came though south Texas and forever changed so many lives. It made The Abundant Harvest grow up and become a fixture in South Montgomery County far faster than any of us could have imagined.
Almost immediately after Harvey, we began serving meals with our neighbors who live off of Needham Rd. We have continued to go back to this neighborhood every week, offering meals and and a food pantry. In this time, we have gotten to know the residents, prayed with them, celebrated with them, and cried with them.
Because we have formed friendships with these folks we became aware of other needs besides what could be put on a table. They needed help having a place for a table, or in some cases, having a table at all. Working closely with the Episcopal Diocese of Texas and Episcopal Relief and Development, we have been able to receive grant money that will help the Community of Needham Road rebuild and become stronger and more resilient to flood waters. Already we have helped 8 families purchase supplies like insulation, plywood, flooring, doors, and sheetrock. The need is still there, and we plan on helping more families. Not only will we be able to help them get the supplies they need, but also to hire skilled labor to make sure things are done to code, so these homes are safe.
We are thankful for all this abundance that is being shared. We are even more thankful for the relationships that have been built, and continue to be built as we move into the the new year.
Here is a link to one of the latest stories that have been published about the work we are doing with our friends on Needham Road.
Two Women and a Truck
We are one year post the most devastating storm ever to hit the Texas Coast. One year later, you won't see too many reminders of the flood waters, but there are many who are still struggling to come back, to recover from what happened.
For The Abundant Harvest team - all of us - I think of Harvey as the best learning tool we could have ever received. We grew in exponential rates, doing more sometimes in a day than we planned to do in a month. We learned so much. Not all of it was fun, we failed at a few things, but we have learned. We will be able to be stronger in our response next time we have a natural disaster in our area, because we know it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when.
The relationships that we have been able to foster in the last year have been outstanding. We have relationships - even friendships - now that we might not ever had been able to foster without the effects of Harvey. Our relationship with Servanthood Church in Magnolia is one example.
Our relationships with our Needham Road community is another example. We are going to continue partnerships with all of these folks moving forward. We have received a significant grant from Episcopal Relief and Development, not only to continue our meals and food pantry, but also to begin to help them rebuild their houses that are still not up to where they need to be.
We ask for your continued support. We need not only your financial support, but also your volunteer hours and prayers. We have great things in store for the future as we continue to dream and scheme and plan new ways to transform our community.
We are about halfway through the year, and I think an update on all the work the team is doing in order to transform our community is in order. There are a lot of moving parts, and even more moving stories, but let me bore you with some numbers first.
With our continuing disaster relief meals, as well as our community meals, we have served 6,935 meals so far this year. At this point last year we had served barely 3,000 meals. Obviously, we are not hoping to have to the the volume of disaster relief dinners that we had to in 2017, but we are ready if necessary. We have had significant growth in our community meals at Laundry Love and at the Tamarac Community. We continue to serve meals to the Harvey affected area of the Needham Road Community, as well as to our partners in disaster relief in the Magnolia Community. We even have a volunteer who takes meals to a homeless camp off of 1960.
Our food pantries have also grown. So far in 2018 we have distributed 45,000 pounds of food. The food we have shared has gone to the Montgomery County Women's Center, Montgomery County Youth Services, social services at Moorhead Junior High in the Conroe ISD, and to our communities at Tamarac Pines, Laundry Love, and Needham Road. We also have shared with the St. Isidore Community, as well as our host church, Trinity Episcopal when they have people come in asking for assistance.
We could not do any of this with out the help of our fantastic volunteer team. This year we have had over 250 different people volunteer 1,695 hours. We have teams helping with food pantries, prepping meals and serving on the truck teams.
I love some of the stories we are hearing back. Kira, the social service counselor at Moorhead picked up food early in the morning. That way her office could be stocked when students in need were hungry at lunch or before their after school activities. The pre-made salads and wraps were always a big hit, as was the washed and cut fruit that our volunteers prepared for her to pick up. For some reason the blood oranges were really popular with the preteen boy crowd! ;)
Ms. Kay is a disabled veteran who served our country with distinction. She is able to receive fresh fruits and vegetables for her and her children each week at one of our early morning food pantries. The volunteers know that she can not get easily in and out of her car, and pack a box for her each week. Through building this relationship, they know that her and her family's favorites are turkey, strawberries, cinnamon raisin bread, and if we have fresh flowers, she likes daisies. When she pulls up, her boxes of food (and flowers) are ready and waiting for her, so she does not have to struggle to pull out her walker.
Some members of our Needham Road Community mentioned that their children were super hungry at dinner time because they had not eaten lunch. They had, during the school year, been receiving the free lunches the school offered. With school out of session, and the nearest place to get those meals 3+ miles away across a busy highway, they were just going without. We asked a few volunteers if they could help, and they donated over 500 disposable bento boxes. Then we asked our host church of Trinity Episcopal if they new any volunteers who could help pack the lunches. The office and pastoral staff volunteered to do it themselves as part of their weekly staff meeting. Now, each week, we have 30 less hungry young people eating a nutritious, protein packed lunch (with a tiny sweet treat).
2018 is a defining year for us as an organization. We are plotting, scheming, dreaming and visioning how we can continue to grow and really address the needs of our community.
It is official! We have joined the Woodlands Area Chamber of commerce. We made this decision for a number of reasons.
A little update on what we are doing now with the Abundant Harvest. It has been a little over a year since we began this adventure, and it is definitely a different road than we anticipated!
We are continuing our monthly community meals. This is one of core values. At this time, we have one meal in the third ward of Houston, lunch with our Laundry Love Community, lunch with those in the Montgomery County Women's Shelter, and dinner with the residents of the Tamarac Pines Apartments.
Our food pantries are also continuing. As of right now, we have 26 monthly pantries that we support and host. These range from sharing food with the elderly, with the St. Isidore community, with college students, and with those still struggling after Harvey. We have big news to announce on this front, as we are in the process of setting up a stationary pantry that would not only have perishable food that we specialize in, but also meals already prepared and ready to heat and serve. We hope to have that opening by May 1, 2018.
Additionally, we are still working to help those who are still recovering from Harvey. We have weekly meals and food pantries with the Needham Rd. Community, and we continue to help Servanthood Church in Magnolia feed volunteers who have come to help with restoration work on homes that are still being reconstructed.
And we continue to celebrate with the communites of St. Isidore with meals at the all church gatherings. We are also looking at ramping up our catering in the south Montgomery county area. We operate on the model that if you have us come out, your donation pays not only for your meal, but also for the meal of someone in out community meal programs.
2018 is off to a phenomenal start!
It is one of those weird time warps where it seems like Harvey was forever ago, or it could have been just yesterday. For many people, especially those who did not sustain damage from Harvey, it is long gone out of our minds. We don't see it on TV anymore, and if we do, we are weary of seeing it, and have become numb to the devastation that is still out there.
We chose to continue our Harvey relief efforts into the new year. We are reaching out in two main directions. The first is continuing our relationship with the Needham Road community. We are going there each week with dinner and a small food pantry. Twice a month we are coming in with a larger more complete food pantry, thanks to our partnership with The Montgomery County Food Bank. The other direction we are reaching out is partnering with Battle Cry Ministries in Magnolia, Texas. This church has committed to helping those who experienced damage during the storm. They built bunkhouses on their property and a shower house. They are hosting volunteer groups from all over the country who are coming in to help. Until their kitchen is up and running, we are helping to provide evening meals as well as lunch fixings and snacks.
One of the most important lessons that we learned from our first foray into Disaster Relief was that partnering is one of the best things that we can do. When we work with others, we are able to accomplish so much more.
Thank you for your continued support of all of our work in the community! Together we can transform it into a even better place!
It's been hard to explain all that we have done and learned in the first 11 months of our operations. We want to try and quantify all the good work that our sponsors and volunteers have accomplished. Here is a list of numbers:
17,475 Meals served (our goal was 3,000)
5,415 Volunteer hours (our goal was 1,000)
60,100 Pounds of perishables shared (our goal was 10,000lbs)
108 Days the truck was on the road
5 Different storage spaces
124 Instagram posts
247 Instagram followers
486 Facebook page likes
202 Average of unique viewers on the website per week
469 Average of page views on the website per week
102 People who have signed up on our volunteer list
30,342 Dollars donated to help us continue Harvey relief
112,327 Dollars donated to help us continue our food pantries and community meals
Obviously, this does not do justice to the work that was done this year. The stories are better.
There are lots of more stories that could be told. There are more stories to be written. Happy 2018! We are looking forward to what it brings us!