Stillwater News Press

October 14, 2013

Harvest II feeds the hungry for 25 years

By Elizabeth Keys
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Harvest II begins its 25th year with the collection of canned food at Oklahoma State University’s Harvest Carnival at 6-8 p.m. Tuesday in the Payne County Expo Center. Canned goods’ donations are the only ticket for fun that night. Everyone needs to bring at least one canned good to contribute to get in the door.

“OSU’s Harvest Carnival jump starts Harvest II every year,” Junior Service League Harvest II Chairman Arista Lopp said. “Almost 25 percent of our donations come from the event.

The Harvest Carnival bridges the gap between OSU students and the Stillwater community which was one of the original ideas in starting Harvest II 25 years ago. At the time, many organizations from schools to churches to civic clubs and scouts would have a food drive.  

“The whole idea was to coordinate multiple food drives and maximize the potential,” said Junior Service League founding member Betty Townsend.

Harvest II was an effort to organize all the food drives into a cohesive unit for the community. The name developed because, after coming in from the field, gathering and distributing the food represents a second harvest.

The Stillwater Junior Service League, a club devoted to professional volunteerism, had researched and completed a few projects in those fledgling years and decided to take on the food drive project. The first chairman, Becky James, has been amazed at the growth and how Harvest II knitted together all the different groups for one cause.

“JSL was a vehicle of organization for this massive effort,” Townsend said, “And, it’s morphed into different components with turkeys, hams and fresh food from donations, too.”

She said grocery stores have helped with signs sometimes in the canned goods aisles calling out to customers, “one for me, and one for thee” so shoppers will purchase some extra nonperishable items to place in the Harvest II donation barrels when leaving the store.

“I am grateful to have been involved in a community-wide effort that has helped feed hungry families for 25 years,” James said.

Many children and spouses, along with countless volunteers across the community, have helped in the effort each year to provide a harvest for those in need. Last year, 500 community volunteers collected, sorted, packed and distributed more than 45,000 pounds of food to area agencies.

For the 25th year, Harvest II collection points will be located at Stillwater schools, participating businesses and churches. The first donation barrels will be distributed to churches on Oct. 22 with more barrels dispersed throughout the community by Oct. 29 at banks, area businesses and schools. Donations will be accepted from Oct. 29 through Nov. 7.  

Canned meat, fruit and vegetables, along with peanut butter and boxed meals, are accepted. Monetary donations and baby items are also needed.

 The area agencies that receive donations from Harvest II are Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency, Mission of Hope, Storehouse, Love Feast, Salvation Army, Wings of Hope Family Crisis Services, Neighborhood Ministries, Payne County Youth Services, Cowboys for Compassion and Operation Christmas. Through donations given to Harvest II, these agencies are able to provide food to those in need throughout the year.  

Tammy Richmond from the Mission of Hope said homeless families are given a tour of the facility when they first enter the shelter and many have cried when they come in the kitchen and see the food pantry which is stocked with donations of canned and dry goods from Harvest II.

“No one shows up at the Mission of Hope on their best day,” Richmond said. “They’re scared. They’re embarrassed. It’s the worst day of your life . . . they light up when they see the food pantry. You’re not going to be hungry as long as you’re with us because of Harvest II.”

The shelter served 296 people, including 38 children in 2012, and those numbers seem to be increasing with service to 205 and 26 children by July of this year.  In 2012, the Mission of Hope averaged serving three meals a day for 50 clients per month. They are especially appreciative of the perishable items they can purchase through an account established at Consumers IGA through Harvest II donations, Richmond said. The account is known as “summer money” and is distributed to the agencies to purchase perishable items such as fresh vegetables, fruits and meats.

Kyle Anderson, associate pastor at First United Methodist Church, said Harvest II allows the Love Feast to be ready in case of an emergency such as twice as many people showing up than usual. Love Feast serves dinner meals Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in the church’s south campus, 2823 S. Husband. Anderson said the Storehouse, which is a food pantry open 4-6 p.m. Thursdays, operates like a grocery store with products stocked on shelves for those in need to select what they want so everyone can be better stewards of the donations. He said if someone chooses their food then it’s more likely not to go to waste due to allergies or taste differences. The Storehouse, 717 S. Duck, serves 200-250 families on a monthly basis with the vast majority using the pantry on an emergency basis.

Capt. Patrishia Knott at the Salvation Army is seeing a lot more emergencies with people going through tough times this year. They have watched the numbers in need increase from serving more than the total in 2012 already this year. This summer they were serving more than 1,000 families with two-thirds of those having children.

“When people are out of work, they lose their medical insurance so cash is often needed for health expenses and there is little left over for food,” she said.

Salvation Army food baskets are prepared for families to help them in hard times no matter where they live. Neighborhood Ministries has a similar policy — “if you walk through our door, you get food that night,”  Gladys Morris said. The Neighborhood Ministries reaches out to the hungry in Perkins, Ripley, Agra, Coyle and Tryon, too. At Christmas, JSL coordinates with the Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency in providing a Christmas dinner to families shopping for donated toys at Operation Christmas, another community-wide endeavor. COCAA touched the lives of 1,978 families and 4,976 individuals throughout the year with donations from Harvest II.

“The success of Harvest II is due to the overwhelming support and participation from the community,” Lopp said. “So many individuals, businesses, churches and students donate food, time and contributions to Harvest II each year. We’re touching every part of the community and we’re thankful to all for making this mission possible.”

 She said there are many ways to donate and contribute to Harvest II.  For more information on how to participate, contact Lopp at 405-742-2796 or at Aristalopp@provalue.net.