Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dear Friends of Harvest Hope Food Bank,

In the spirit of the season, I certainly wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for the many blessings you have shared with Harvest Hope Food Bank to assure that we have much needed resources to distribute food to those who are worried where their next meal will come from.  After our last email to you, we have had many responses to our requests for honorariums and memorials to let loved ones know they are thought of fondly and a gift has been made to help fight hunger-what I passionately feel is a critical need.  We thank you so very much!

Harvest Hope Food Bank relies greatly on the generosity and donations of so many to continue our mission of caring for hungry families across 20 counties of our state.  Especially as we close out 2010, resources collected now must help us continue into 2011. 

In this continued worried state of the economy, increases in service delivery are very high-more than 111% more families are coming to us than in 2009.  With this increased service delivery, naturally it costs more in operation funds to move food to those who need it. 

Sadly, since Thanksgiving we have seen a 13% reduction in the usual flow of donations we come to count on at this busy time of year.    I must share that the reduction is significant and impacts our service delivery to make sure we are getting enough food to those in need.  True to the economic conditions, the average gift per donor is about half of what it was last year. This is certainly frightening and at the same time I know we have to walk by faith not what we see.  We always must trust in the Lord that He will provide.

For many, the holiday season is almost over, but also for many, the hunger need will not go away. Families who face such critical needs will still need our compassion and help long after the holidays and certainly into the dead of winter.

New unemployment numbers came out just last week and they tell us why we are seeing such a strong need for our service. South Carolina is tied with Nevada as the state with the seventh highest percentage of unemployed. The unemployment rate across Harvest Hope’s 20 counties is 12.6%, which is a full two points higher than the state average and three points higher than the national average. Sixteen per cent of South Carolina’s population live below the poverty level, and that’s almost half a million people. Hunger is a new and unfamiliar factor for so many in South Carolina.  Harvest Hope lives with purpose to bring food to all hungry people and certainly this is not an individual effort but a collective one that includes YOU. Your gifts, your time, your prayer and your support tell others what we do.  You are significant to this fight and to the dream to make sure that no one goes hungry.

Being a collective ambassador in this fight is crucial.  Yes, financial gifts will and are always  needed, volunteers are needed, as well as in kind gifts that might be not needed by everyone but could be possibly be used by someone else.  Telling others about what Harvest Hope does and scheduling a powerful mission-telling HOPE tour really helps to get people’s attention about this work. You our donor, our volunteer, our supporter are the best message deliverer to invite others who respect what you support to take a tour.  Please take a moment to look at our website and see there are multiple ways to help through our gift catalog, honorariums, memorials, year end gifts, food drives and volunteering

As always, we are very grateful for your support and interest in the ongoing mission of Harvest Hope Food Bank. We know this is a tough economic time and many difficulties are brought on as the past three years have shown. However, as written in 2nd Corinthians 9:9: “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”  And to share the joy and peace of the season, we can know that through our collective work, we have “filled the hungry with good things.” Luke 1:53.

Best Wishes and Warmest Blessings of the Season to you and to your families,

Denise Holland 

To make a online donation click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

In late September the US Census Bureau released information on American poverty levels prepared from the data collected for the 2010 census, including the latest findings on poverty in America. The data shows that South Carolina’s population has 11.20% living below the poverty level, compared to a national average of 9.6%.  Richland County’s poverty rate is exactly the same as the national average, but some counties like Darlington (22.3%) and Marion (23%) are over twice the national level.

For me the most startling numbers tell us how many children in South Carolina are living below the poverty level.  Almost 30% of children ages five or younger in our state live below the poverty level. Almost 22% of children ages five through seventeen in our state live below the poverty level. Every night in South Carolina, one out of every four children under the age of five goes to bed hungry.

For too many children in our state, the meals they are served during the school day are the most dependable and most nutritious they receive. They count on the breakfasts and lunches they sit down to eat in their school cafeterias. They look forward to going to school because they know they will get the food their parents are often find difficulty in providing. And equally, they worry what they will have to eat when they go home, and if they will go hungry over the weekend. To help meet their needs and ease their fears, Harvest Hope provides supplementary nutrition and meals to hungry children with three different programs: Kids Cafe, Backpack and Snack Sack programs.

These are after-school charitable meal programs for children ages six to eighteen who have been identified as being at risk of hunger. These programs provide meals to low-income children through a variety of community locations where children can safely congregate—such as Boys and Girls Clubs, churches, community centers and public schools. At our Kids Cafe locations, Harvest Hope delivers food to community partners who prepare hot meals and serve the children. The kids get more than just meals at these sites. It’s a nurturing and structured environment where they can participate in safe educational, recreational and social activities such as homework assistance, tutoring, and arts and crafts projects.

Kid’s Cafe sites operate after-school and so are closed over the weekend. To make sure that kids get a nutritional boost between Friday afternoon and the next Monday morning, Harvest Hope is fortunate to have many valuable partners across our 20 county service area. These community partners, many of whom are churches, coordinate with schools and assist in our 28 Backpack and fifteen Snack Sack sites to provide easy-to-prepare, kid-friendly meals that children take home on Fridays to supplement their nutritional needs through the weekend. In the past, Harvest Hope provided just schools in our service area with kid-friendly food and empty backpacks or snacksacks which the schools would then fill. Guidance counselors and teachers identify at-risk kids and discretely ensure they get their designated food to take home, and then collect the Backpacks when they return on Monday.

Just recently, Harvest Hope has been fortunate to find partnerships with a number of committed churches who are dedicated to helping us in our mission to feed hungry school children. Our pantry trucks deliver food on a monthly basis to these churches, who then use members of their congregations to fill Backpacks with the food and then deliver them on Thursdays or Fridays to our partnering schools, picking up the empty backpacks on the following Monday.

We are grateful for these local churches, some in rural, hard-to-reach areas, who have come to us and showed their commitment to helping get food to children in need. We want to expand these partnerships, and find more church partners who will include Harvest Hope’s Backpack program as part of their congregation’s mission work. If you think your congregation would like to find out more about working with us to reduce the number of children going to bed hungry every night, then call Erica Cheeks at (803) 254-4432 extension 1102 and let her tell you how we can work together.

If you would like to help us feed hungry children in South Carolina and ensure brighter tomorrows for so many of our young, would you consider making a donation right now through our website to help Harvest Hope continue providing these critical services? Just click here to visit our convenient Donations page:

Together we can continue to make a difference in the lives of children and help them grow to become the future stewards of grace, kindness and compassion.

Thank you,
Denise Holland
CEO, Harvest Hope Food Bank

Children are one third of our population and all of our future.  ~Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.  ~Frederick Douglass

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hunger is a reality that many of us do not realize exists in our daily or normal travels. Often, just outside of the neighborhoods and streets where we are accustomed to traveling there are large numbers of people who exist in a continuing state of crisis. Their personal crises are brought on by long-term unemployment, unmanageable housing and utility costs, fixed incomes that do not come close to covering all their expenses, health costs and other overwhelming factors.

If we take ourselves just a little off of our regular daily paths we can find those around us who live in that constant state of need and hunger. Maybe in your own neighborhood there are homes with “for sale” signs that have sat empty for many months, and there are some neighborhoods where it seems there are more empty homes than ones with families. If we go a little further out of our way to drive through rural areas in our state then we can see even greater signs of crises and need. There are many more houses empty and for sale and many more people who are not making it. Life presents additional challenges for those suffering from financial difficulties in South Carolina’s rural areas. Transportation is an enormous challenge and many do not have the means to take themselves or family members to the places where they can get help.

Convenient transportation is something most of us take for granted. We may complain about high gas prices and find ways to cut back on travel, but in the end if we feel the need or desire to go somewhere then we get in our cars and go. But many in our rural areas face a different reality. For them travelling just five or so miles can be a problem. For the few who own reliable cars high gas prices become a pivotal point in determining their access to meals.

To meet the needs of those in rural areas Harvest Hope works with over 400 agency partners throughout our 20 county service area. Many of these agencies take the food they pick up from us out to these impacted rural communities and provide soup kitchens or boxed meal sites at churches and other community centers. The majority of Harvest Hope’s food is actually distributed to the needy by our agency partners at these sites. Most of these agency partners are operated by faith-based organizations committed to helping their hungry neighbors.

There are direct and indirect benefits from our association with agency partners. The obvious direct effect is providing food to those who need it where they need it. The agencies operate in areas where poverty can easily be identified. Poverty is not hidden or out of the way like it is for many of us. It is present and all around them, and their compassion and devotion compels them to help where help is needed. These agencies provide food at feeding sites often run by volunteers and dedicated staffers who are in touch with the community and see the faces of hunger on a regular basis.

The indirect benefits for these faith-based organizations come from the opportunities to build relationships throughout the community and establish bonds of faith and trust with those in deepest need. These agencies help their suffering neighbors overcome some of the difficulties they face and put much-needed food on their tables.

But our agencies cannot be everywhere where there is need. Harvest Hope operates Mobile Food Pantries (MFP) to area not serviced by agencies or other feeding programs. The mission of our MFPs is to reach out to those with severe transportation limitations and take emergency food to them. Like the agency sites, our MFP delivery truck delivers food at designated churches or community centers and distributes the food with the help of area volunteers. Also, at this time of year our MFPs deliver quality, locally-grown fruits and vegetables through produce drops. Harvest Hope coordinates drops of locally-grown fresh produce based on the amount of produce on hand in our warehouse. During the summer the abundance of fresh donated produce allows us to deliver produce to our agencies on a rotating basis based on their individual need and service area.

Sometime this week give yourself enough time to drive off your regular route and allow yourself to see what others are facing everyday. Take some time over the weekend to get out to the rural areas and see the conditions that are a reality for so many. There is a very different world just a little removed from ours, and we may find that it is not so removed from ours.

Thank you and God Bless….

Denise Holland
CEO, Harvest Hope Food Bank

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. 
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.                  ~Mark Twain

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Food for the Fourth

The summer months are a challenging time for the Harvest Hope Food Bank. We are seeing more families in our 20 county service area facing the extremely difficult question of how to feed their children now that school is out. During the school year at-risk children are served reduced-price or free breakfast and lunches, giving their family’s breathing room of two meals a day per child. But summer is here and those school children are home. With July 4th coming up we’re not even half-way through summer, and that means there are plenty of hungry days ahead for many South Carolina children.

If you are wondering how many children we need to feed in our state, then consider some newly released information from Feeding America. A report released Thursday, July 1 shows ranks South Carolina as #9 in our nation for children at risk of hunger. In total, there are more than 257,000 children in our state who will most likely miss a meal today. And everyday.

In order to meet the incredible need to feed our children we have committed additional resources to feeding families and have depleted our supplies. We continue sending our Mobile Food Pantries into the most rural areas to give access to our neediest neighbor’s - right in their backyard. We continue delivering fresh produce every day to our partner agencies and we have been working to muster additional resources through our staff and volunteers who face this crisis every day as people come to us in critical need.

I am writing this blog today as we begin a long holiday weekend because I want everyone to think of the need. If you can spare a minute out of your busy day before you head into this weekend of celebration, please visit our website at We could use help gift right now to support a critical need. Your special gift of $5, $10, $20 or more would be a blessing to us as we try to meet the additional summer demand. The need right now is immediate and your immediate response will be valuable to so many. If everyone reading this will give up just the price of a lunch, between $7 to $10, and donate that to Harvest Hope, we can go a long way toward feeding the hungry children in our 20 county service area this Fourth of July and the following week.

By clicking on the “Donate Now” button on our homepage, you will be directed to our website’s convenient donation page. When entering your gift information, place a note in comment section indicating you read this special message and we will know to direct your gift to feeding our children this summer.

As you enjoy your 4th of July festivities…know that there more children will eat because you cared and answered our call…

Thank you and God Bless….

Denise Holland

CEO, Harvest Hope Food Bank

Where liberty dwells, there is my country. ~Benjamin Franklin

In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. ~Albert Camus

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

For most, the summer months become a time of relaxation and retreat, and a time of family. With children out of school and daylight hours stretching late into the evening families can spend more time together on vacations, weekend getaways, late afternoon excursions and other leisure activities. For many, the summer is a time of relaxation and togetherness.

For many families across South Carolina, however, the summer means an increased challenge in putting food on the table. For many low-income and at-risk children, their staple meals are the reduced-price or free breakfasts and lunches they are served at school. With schools closed for three months, financially hard-pressed parents must now provide two additional meals per child per day. No one wants to see their children go hungry. Imagine going to the kitchen to look for food for your hungry child, but already knowing you are going to find the cupboard and refrigerator empty. Try to imagine the despair you would feel wondering where you will turn to find food for your family, not just for a meal or snack right now, but for the days to come.

Over the last year, one in four children under the age of five in South Carolina went to bed hungry. Now that school is out we know from experience that number is going to increase. At this time of year we see families coming to us to alleviate the despair and hunger they feel when there is no food in their own kitchen. Many of them have not come to us for some time, but their need is urgent now and they know they can count on us. But the summer is often a difficult time for Harvest Hope as well.

The summer is traditionally a slow period for donations to Harvest Hope. With everything going on at this time of year it is easy for people to forget about anything not related to the logistics of vacations, summer camps and other family activities. But summer is one of the peak demand periods of the year for us. And with a downturn in donations, it becomes more difficult for us to meet the needs of the hungry families who make the difficult decision to turn to us. The need increases, yet the donations diminish. We are fortunate that so many people reveal their generosity and give during the holidays. But we cannot ignore the need at this time, or turn away the hungry families coming to us right now. They need us to help them. Just as we need our donors to continue their support and contributions during this difficult period.

Please take the time to go online at and donate what you can. Harvest Hope can dedicate 98¢ out of every dollar donated to feeding the hungry. We can turn $1 into 7 pounds of food for the needy. We can feed a family for a week with $9. With your contributions, we can make sure those who come to us during the summer months will leave with the food they need to provide for everyone, especially the children, who comes to their tables. Donating through our website, especially our Gift Catalog is easy and convenient. Give what you can and we will make it go far.

Last week a radio talk show host discussed the topic of hungry children home for the summer. For some reason, perhaps because in our line of work we associate with so many compassionate and caring people, I anticipated he would urge listeners to open their hearts and donate to help feed their hungry neighbors. But that was not his intention at all. This man suggested that children who need to feed themselves during the summer should go the alleys behind restaurants and eat discarded food found in their trash bins. After hearing this, it took several minutes for the reality of his statements to sink in. I did not want to believe what I had just heard. My mind and heart could not accept the fact that there are really people who could think such a thing, and advocate it over the public airways. Are we really to believe there are people who wish for our children to crawl through garbage and fight rats and insects for their food ?  Is this the kind of society we want to live in?

It is difficult to contain my anger and despair at the thought that some people would actually wish for children to hunt for scraps of nourishment among the refuse. I can only pray that this point of view is not common and only held by a marginalized number of people disassociated with the realities of the communities they live in. I can only hope the radio host’s comments were said for shock effect, and intended to elicit response and outrage for the mere sake of response and outrage. I wonder if he even believes the things he says, and hope that the majority of his listeners do not hold with such abhorrent notions of society and humanity. 

We are fortunate at Harvest Hope. We see the best of humanity daily. We see and hear from the people who believe it is our responsibility to look after others less fortunate and know it is also the best way to look after ourselves. Our spirits benefit and grow from the love we show toward strangers and the compassion we bestow on people in need. I am fortunate to know there are so many donors who understand and support our outreach to end hunger in South Carolina. Your thoughts and blessings give us all hope to continue to believe in the true loving nature of the human spirit.

With Warmest Thanks,

Denise Holland

A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.  ~Proverbs 29:11

Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me.  ~Proverbs 30:8

A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune's inequality exhibits under this sun.  ~Thomas Carlyle

Monday, May 24, 2010

One of the results of the ongoing economic downturn is there are new faces of hunger in America and here in South Carolina.  What do those new faces look like?  What brought them to our door?  What drives people to make the difficult decision to put down their pride and feelings of self dependence and come to us for help?

At Harvest Hope, every day we have conversations with people who cannot understand the new reality they find themselves in.  The cannot understand how they lost control of their lives and why they need help with something as simple and basic as putting food on the table.  Feeding our families is something we all take for granted.  It is a basic need we all assume that we can fulfill on our own.  It is so basic that others often cannot understand what would force someone else to ask for help for food.  But is something we understand at Harvest Hope.

Recently, I had a conversation with a young man in his early 20’s, who could not understand why he had just been laid off.  It is depressing for him because he really loved what he did and looked forward to work every day.  He was certain he had a clear career path and would continue to do what he loved.  But his certainty was shattered and he was left to wonder:  why did this happen to me?  His life was changed and changed quickly.

This is what has happened to so many in South Carolina.  We are sixth in the nation for unemployment and our poverty rates are higher than the national average.  The new faces of hunger belong to people who thought hunger would not happen to them.

These new faces appear every day at our Emergency Food Pantries and at the church pantries, soup kitchens, and overcrowded shelters run by our 400 member agencies.  I personally have seen the faces at tent cities housing families with children who two years ago lived normal lives with working parents, living in homes of their own choosing and buying the groceries they wanted.  The new faces of hunger are frequently people who once came to volunteer but now come to us for food.  People who once donated food or money and now need our help to eat.  On average we see them at Harvest Hope only three times.  But we are seeing them during the worst period of their lives under the worst conditions they have ever experienced.  Because of embarrassment and shame and a determination to do everything possible to care for themselves, they have stretched everything they could.  But they have to eat.  They have to feed their families.

I still see the long lines of people every morning waiting patiently for our Emergency Food Pantries to open.  I still hear the agency representatives stopping at my door saying “Denise, what we are dealing with everyday is overwhelming”.  I force a smile on my face, my hand goes up to pat them on the back or to give them a hug, but inwardly as they shake their heads in bewilderment, I must say:  “I too am overwhelmed.”  All of this touches home for me; probably for you too.

I’ve been at Harvest Hope for thirteen years and I’ve never seen this many people looking for work.  Like the mom with a six year old who told me just last week:  “Denise—the economy has destroyed my marriage.  Even though I have a college degree, I am working two part-time jobs to make ends meet.  I have learned to do with less, but we can’t do without food.” This mother does need us.  Does she want to stand in line for food?   Would you?  Would you want to trade places with her – just for one day, one bitter and frustrating afternoon?  Just to learn, just to feel the anxiety and uncertainty.  Just to come to the same realization she did:  there is no other choice right now.

Do I need any more proof that they need us?  Absolutely not.  It angers me sometimes, and perhaps I shouldn’t be so honest about it.  But it angers me that anyone can question the harsh reality that forces good working families to our door.  I see the despair on their faces, hear the tremor in their voices and know the uncertainty of their futures.

Whatever their reasons, whatever their story, whatever forces compel them to come to us for help:  THEY NEED HELP AND WE ARE HERE TO HELP THEM!

Thank you.
Denise Holland

The fastest runner doesn't always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn't always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don't always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time.
~ Ecclesiastes 9:11

Faith is courage; it is creative while despair is always destructive.
~David S. Muzzey

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It is with great sadness I that just learned of the passing of long-time Harvest Hope volunteer and supporter Edward Young Roper, Sr. Mr. Roper passed away at the age of 85 peacefully in his home on April 20. He is survived by his wife of 62 years Mary Lee Flowers Roper in addition to two daughters and a son, several grandchildren and step grandchildren.

Ed Roper and Mary Lee were staunch supporters of Harvest Hope for many years. Ed established the Daily Bread Memorial Fund years ago through the Central Carolina Community Foundation as a principal investment to provide continued income for Harvest Hope.

Ed’s dedication to battling hunger stems from his personal experience as a prisoner of war in a concentration camp during WWII. When just twenty years old he was captured on the battlefield shortly after the Battle of the Bulge by the Germans, and held from December of 1944 until April of ’45. Each day Ed and the other American prisoners were given just one loaf of bread to divide among six or eight men. Even though they existed in a continued state of near-starvation, the soldiers were made to perform backbreaking work.

The memory of terrible hunger and nutritional privation instilled in Ed Roper the desire to see that no one in his community suffered the effects of hunger. After receiving reparations from the Germans for his cruel treatment at the concentration camp, he established the Daily Bread Memorial Fund to benefit Harvest Hope. A designated fund such as Ed’s Daily Bread Memorial Fund supports a specified charitable institution named when the donor establishes the fund. Income from the fund is paid to the designated organization to be used to support the operations and programs. To ensure that Ed’s lifetime commitment to feeding the hungry is honored, his family has asked that in lieu of flowers contributions be made to either Harvest Hope or the Daily Bread Memorial Fund.

I will never forget the times I spent with Ed and Mary Lee as he talked about his experience being captured by the Germans, suffering from hunger and watching others around him die from starvation. He was very passionate to make sure that he took every opportunity to help hungry people and to educate others about the serious effects of hunger. He was a volunteer for many years with the Golden K's Kiwanis club helping Harvest Hope Food Bank by picking up bread each morning from area grocery stores, then bringing it back to the food bank to give out to clients and agencies. He, along with his friend Porter Anderson, made sure that his Sunday School Class at Trenholm Road United Methodist Church was involved with helping others and at least annually wanted a speaker from Harvest Hope to come in and help tell the story of hunger and facts of what hungry people experience in South Carolina.

All of us at Harvest Hope Food Bank share in the grief being felt by Mary Lee and her family.  They have shared in a lifetime of joy and giving from Ed Roper who was a very strong supporter that through a personal quest he did not want to see anyone suffer from hunger.  Our hearts reach out to the Roper family with love and peace.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Over the weekend the state of South Carolina lost a great citizen: Michael J. Mungo. He was a quiet, gentle, philanthropic business man who lived Christian values by caring deeply for those experiencing basic needs and real crises. He gave generously to those in need of food, shelter, and medicine.

Michael J. Mungo was co-founder of Harvest Hope Food Bank and supported the needs of hungry people throughout his life. He embodied God's commandment that by helping the least of his children then you also served the Lord.

Like so many others, I share in awe and respect from knowing Mr. Mungo’s spirit of generosity and his keen business sense. He gave wholeheartedly to Harvest Hope as well as several other charities. In his giving he specified his ideals and knew exactly how his gifts were to be used. He made sure that every charity he supported used his gifts wisely and prudently and was diligent in ensuring they were successful and true to their vision.

He provided his vision and leadership skills to projects large and small that would benefit people experiencing the worst of times. He knew that at any moment it could be any and all of us who needed help. He never wanted recognition, only the assurance that the right things would be done for those in need.

Michael Mungo was a great business man with a strong work ethic, sharing and teaching his values first to family then to friends and associates. I had great respect for him because he asked the tough questions while also wanting to know the "real stories" about those who stood to benefit from his generosity and compassion. Before he gave to anyone he wanted to discuss the financials, then hear the vision and then determine the need. I believe the same individual stamina he obviously put forth in his business he also put forth as energetically and passionately to his volunteer and humanitarian work.

So many who never knew who he was or what he was about were helped out of a terrible crisis without realizing who their "angel" was. His yard on St. Andrews Road was a floral showcase year round, but his blooms of human kindness are much more abundant throughout the state. Rest in peace, Mr. Mungo.  You gave so selflessly so others may live.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Blessings

I am happy to write to you on Maundy Thursday, just before Easter weekend. As the CEO of Harvest Hope Food Bank, I thank everyone for their generous support already this year helping us feed the hungry in our community. It is a shame that so many people right here in our neighborhood have to suffer the debilitating effects of hunger. On this Night before Good Friday, I’d like you to think about what this day means to you and what this day means for hungry people in South Carolina.

Evangelical minister Tony Campolo is famous for telling the “It’s Friday but Sunday’s Coming” speech. This sermon has been retold many times in many different churches by many different pastors. Here is just a taste, for those of you unfamiliar with the service:

“It was Friday, and my Jesus is dead on a tree. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s comin’. Friday, Mary’s crying her eyes out; the disciples are running in every direction like sheep without a shepherd. But that’s Friday, and Sunday’s comin’. Friday, some are looking at the world saying, “As things have been, so they shall be. You can’t change anything in this world!” But they don’t know that it’s only Friday, and Sunday’s a comin’. Friday and those forces that oppress the poor and keep people down, those forces that destroy people, the forces in control now, those forces that are gonna rule, they don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. Friday, people are saying, “Darkness is gonna rule the world, sadness is gonna be everywhere,” They don’t know it’s only Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’. Even though this world is rotten, as it is right now, we know it’s only Friday. But Sunday’s comin’”

As Christians we see Good Friday as a time to reflect, a time to think about our own struggles and the insignificance of them compared to our Savior who struggled on the Cross. But with his sacrifice, we know that there is hope ahead, there is light that will overcome the darkness. Our God will be resurrected, we will be cleansed of our sins and lightness and goodness will be let back in the world.

For many in our communities, the darkness is overwhelming. Many of these people have never experienced the darkness and uncertainty before this year. Many are husbands and Wives who had beautiful homes, smiling happy children and plenty of food for their table. Now, through the effects of a horrible recession, they have lost their jobs and they are no longer able to provide food for their families and pay a mortgage. Many of our elderly men and women, our parents and grandparents, who have worked hard to one day, be able to retire, have found themselves alone and with little money to buy the necessary food they need after the outrageous prices of medication and doctor’s visits. As for the Children of South Carolina, our precious, innocence future, who are unable to understand the complexities of the economic woes of our country, 1 in 4 of them do understand what it feels like to go to bed hungry. These families, these fellow neighbors and South Carolinians are lost in the darkness, hungry, scared, hopeless and alone.

But truly they are not alone. They do have a savior and hope is coming. At Harvest Hope we are able to provide for our hungry neighbors through our strong Christian community, nonprofit network and through the efforts of hard working individuals who volunteer their time and money. It is through your efforts in our community of giving that we are able to show hungry people even in the darkest hour, that it’s Friday but Sunday is coming.

As Jesus reminds us, it is our duty as Christians to care for all of mankind; “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

We thank you so dearly for helping and supporting us at Harvest Hope Food Bank. Through your many Mobile Food Pantries you have helped so many of our hungry neighbors. You have taken Jesus’ requirements of us as Christians and put them into real action. You are helping a needy community and through doing so are strengthening your church and your individual relationship with Christ.

I hope that all of you take a moment tonight to reflect on your struggles and to know that no matter what crisis you have in your life at this point; no matter how dark it might get—know that you are not alone.

May God Bless you. Remember—that it is only Friday—and Sunday’s coming.

Denise Holland
Harvest Hope Food Bank

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Throughout most of 2009 we at Harvest Hope worked hard to feed the many hungry South Carolinians who came to us for emergency food relief. We saw that the lines were getting longer and that more and more people were showing up at our Emergency Food Pantries and at our partnering agencies’ food relief locations. It was obvious to us that the number of people in our community affected by the current economic downturn and thrown into financial hardship and nutritional despair was increasing exponentially. But now we are seeing data proving just how frightening and overwhelming the situation really is.

On Friday, January 22 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the SC Employment Security Commission released year-end unemployment rates, and the data confirms what we have already seen to be true: an incredible amount of people in South Carolina have lost their jobs and more continue to lose their jobs every week. As of December 2009, South Carolina showed an unemployment rate of 12.6 %, the fourth highest in the country.  273,175 South Carolinians are out of work. Our state shed over 50,000 jobs in the last year, with many counties in Harvest Hope’s service area showing levels of unemployment greatly in excess of the national unemployment rate of 10%.

The average unemployment rate for the 20 counties served by Harvest Hope is 14.77%. The ten-county Columbia service area shows an unemployment rate of 12.1%, while the eight-county Pee Dee service area shows a rate of 17.44%. Marion County is the hardest hit in our service area, with an unemployment rate of 22.8%.

According to information just released by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), South Carolina was fifth in the nation for families suffering from food hardship in 2009, with 22.4% of the state’s population reporting they did not have enough money to buy food. Columbia was 15th in the nation, with 20.7 % of families suffering from food hardship.

These are the economic conditions that drive the lives of individuals and families into disorder. They are forced to scramble to meet their most basic of needs and compelled to make choices and sacrifices they are unaccustomed to. The most basic human physiological needs (taking in nourishment) are suddenly weighed against secondary safety and security needs (providing reliable shelter and a modicum of comfort). According to acclaimed psychologist Abraham Maslow’s theory on the Hierarchy of Human Needs, people usually try to fulfill physiological needs (eating) first, then seek to satisfy safety and security needs (shelter) second. But economic hardship often reverses those needs, working against basic human nature. People do not want to lose their homes, and do not want to force their families into the elements, and economic disorder drives them to make a decision to choose between food or shelter.

The people, the families that come to us for help, do not want to beg for food or assistance. Everyone wants their lives to be in order. They want self sufficiency, to put a reliable roof over their heads, to pay their bills, purchase food and provide for their own medical needs. They want to be productive members of society. Our records over the last year reveal that over 70% of our clients come to us no more than three times as they worked through their periods of disorder.

As I said, our clients do not want a handout. They want to know they are self-reliant and then feel good about themselves. A further and critical level in Maslow’s Hierarchy is meeting and achieving needs related to personal esteem. People want to feel good about themselves. They want to know they have confronted adversity, made difficult decisions, swallowed some pride and asked for assistance they previously thought they would never need, worked through their period of hardship and put their lives back in order. We have helped them meet the most basic and primary of needs in the Human Hierarchy and they can find comfort and esteem in knowing they are on the road to self-sufficiency.

That’s the service we provide, the value we give to their lives. By providing food at a time of crisis and anxiety, we give them the chance to focus on other critical priorities in order to meet the basic human needs of shelter and security. We allow the means for them to move through their period of crisis and adjust to their new circumstances. From there, they will provide their own means of self-reliance and esteem.

I believe that people desire to be self sufficient with the ability to choose their own foods, pay their own bills, choose their own medical care and take charge of all the sundry factors that influence their lives. I don't believe people desire to suffer the embarrassment of having to come to a charity to obtain free food. But sometimes life throws us all curve balls and we have to find ways to meet our most basic of needs. It is a huge blessing to have church food pantries, soup kitchens, emergencies shelters, free medical clinics and other non- profit organizations providing these most critical of basic needs when jobs are lost and families are hit the hardest with overwhelming struggles.

Next week we will release the results of a year-long hunger study with information gathered by Feeding America and Harvest Hope and compiled by Mathematica Policy Research. This report will detail specifics, enlightening and frightening, explaining who our clients are and the conditions that impel them to come to us for assistance. This information is timed to release with other Feeding America food banks across the country. Be sure to check back for insights into the lives of those who find themselves in need of the vital humanitarian service we provide.

I look forward to sharing with you again next week.

Denise Holland

Because thou shalt  forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away. ~ Job 11:16

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.  ~ World Health Organization, 1948

For more information on Abraham Maslow:

For more information on the Food Research and Action Center:

Monday, January 11, 2010

As we begin the new year as well as the new decade, I would like to take a moment to count our many blessings. Harvest Hope has benefited from an abundance of blessings over the last year. Those blessings have come to us in the form of donations stemming from the enormous compassion and generosity of so many in the Midlands who care for their neighbors. To the many who have helped us get through the most trying period of want and need in our history I can only express our deepest gratitude and the assurance that your heart-felt contributions went far toward relieving the suffering of thousands in our community.

As we count the count the blessings of last year, we look ahead to the new year and see the need is still critical, but it is a need I know that we can meet with continued support from our many generous patrons and donors. I want everyone who helped us meet the incredible needs we faced last year, and in truth, all the years we have strived to feed the hungry in our community, to know that everyday we look at you as treasures.

Treasures are precious and favored things that we hold close to our hearts. For the Harvest Hope Food Bank, our treasures are the many donors, patrons, agencies, board members, volunteers, community partners and staff members who remain committed to ensuring that the hungry in our community can rely on us for food when they need it. Our treasures are also our clients, the individuals and families and children who are thrown into economic turmoil and cannot, despite their best efforts, meet the needs of putting enough food on their tables. As you serve, you are a treasure. As you receive, you are also a treasure. We think of all of you as being inside the treasure chest we call Harvest Hope.

In thinking about the collective group I count as the treasures of Harvest Hope, I’m aware that maybe you need to know more about what we do here at the food bank. Maybe you need to know more about the size and scope of our operation, the ways we receive and distribute food to the hungry. The ways that we attack hunger and strive to defeat the anxiety of need. The easiest way for everyone to see what we do and learn about our operation is to take an H.O.P.E. (Helping Our People Eat) tour at one of our Emergency Food Bank and distribution centers. A forty-five minute H.O.P.E. tour is a fascinating and educational way to learn how we receive, store and disperse the tons of food that arrive here daily. A tour will show you the many facets of transportation we deal with as well as the complexities of food issues such as product safety and USDA standards compliance. You will see the challenges we face in receiving, processing and then distributing 30 million pounds of food throughout 20 different counties every year. Seeing what we do here everyday is the best way to understand how complex and mammoth our operations truly is. Just as important, you will also see the faces of those who are at the end of their rope and who come to us in need. You will learn the ways we greet them and determine how we can best help them keep food on their tables.

Frequently we hear from those who visit and take our tour say how surprised they are at the size and scope of our operation. They are often awed by the expanse of our warehouse, the towering racks of food and the vast quantities of product handled by our staff and flowing daily through our facility. It changes the ways they think about our mission of feeding the hungry.

We at Harvest Hope open our doors and welcome the opportunity for everyone in the community to see how we meet the increasing demand of providing food to the hungry. We would like for you to open yourselves up to learning more about what we do and how we do it. We offer tours of our Shop Road facility during the day or in the early evening, although I recommend touring during operating hours from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm to observe and appreciate the full extent of our daily activities. I can assure you that at no time during the tour do we ask for or expect donations. It is purely an educational and learning experience.

We also extend invitations to tour our Florence and Greenville food banks. Each facility faces unique challenges in meeting their own local needs, and touring those locations sheds different perspectives on the ways that Harvest Hope tailors its hunger relief outreach. For individual information on H.O.P.E. tours, please see the following contact specifics:

  • Columbia location:
    2220 Shop Road
    (803) 254-4432

  • Pee Dee (Florence) location:
    2513 West Lucas Street
    (843) 661-0826
  • Greater Greenville Area
    5200 Pelham Avenue, Suite A
    (864) 281-3998

I know after you have been to the heart of our outreach you will have a broader perspective on Harvest Hope and the message of our humanitarian mission. I am asking for your assistance this year to help spread the knowledge of that mission, and to share your experience with the people who are your individual treasures and invite them to take a tour of Harvest Hope.

Let’s make 2010 the year that we not only display the work of Harvest Hope to our treasures, but work to build a larger treasure chest. Let’s maintain the good work we have done and continue to meet the needs of those who need our helping hands.

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you soon.

Denise Holland

For Where Your Treasure Is, There Your Heart Will Be Also ~ Matthew 6:19-24

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~ Thornton Wilder