Harvest Farm Posts

Hope and Helping Hands :: Harvest Farm’s Mission Trip to Whiteclay

 

A Group of New Life Program participants serving on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

A Group of New Life Program participants serving on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation


Like most visitors to Whiteclay, Nebraska and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, New Life Program (NLP) participant Kris Wise was shocked by the alcoholism and poverty that plagues the local Native American community. Every year, NLP participants at Harvest Farm go on a mission trip to Whiteclay to serve and minister to the Lakota Native Americans who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation, located two miles north across the South Dakota border. Whiteclay exists primarily to provide alcoholic beverages and groceries to the reservation, where the sale of alcohol is prohibited. Kris notes:

 
“What stuck out the most to me was how the town with the population of 14 had 4 liquor stores [and] the streets being flooded with drunken people who consumed a lot of alcohol.”

 
As many as 80% of adults in Pine Ridge suffer from alcoholism, and roughly a quarter of newborns on the reservation suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome (The New York Times). Most of the alcohol consumption occurs on the town’s sidewalks, resulting in what The New York Times has called a “rural skid row.” Barred from drinking on the reservation, customers often huddle together against the elements, sleep on mattresses in nearby fields, or lie incapacitated in the open air. Poor health, domestic violence, and lack of opportunity has led to a sense of hopelessness and resentment among the community.

 

Pine Ridge residents on the streets of Whiteclay (Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News)

Pine Ridge residents on the streets of Whiteclay (Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News)

 

That’s where our New Life Program comes in. The power of the NLP participants, such as Kris Wise and Luke Cooper, is to share their own experiences with members of the Pine Ridge community and to serve the communities’ physical needs. In working with local ministries Lakota Hope and Hands of Faith back in June, participants have been able to share their own struggles with substance abuse with the Lakota community. Living and serving in Whiteclay allows participants to witness how a long history of alcohol dependence can impact families and whole communities. In contrast to the therapeutic refuge and tight-knit community at Harvest Farm, Whiteclay demonstrates how isolation and substance abuse frequently becomes a vicious cycle. Our NLP participants speak into the experiences of Pine Ridge residents and have helped construct new homes for families living in cramped conditions, completed landscaping projects, and gathered firewood among other projects.

 

NLP participants working on a home’s foundation

NLP participants working on a home’s foundation

 

In addition to the tangible benefits that their service has for families, our New Life Program participants have shared how serving the Lakota families has impacted their own perspectives on poverty and self-sufficiency. Luke Cooper writes:

“As a group of guys from the Farm and I were helping pour a house foundation for a family of ten who were living in a single-wide trailer, I looked around to see FEMA trailers surrounding us and felt fortunate to be at Harvest Farm with all of its resources and people. The Lakota people do not have the opportunities for employment or the stable income that we have here in Colorado, which is apparent when we drove through Pine Ridge and saw the number of people walking around or hanging out in the middle of the day. Being able to help a couple families get new homes built for them, replacing the old, beat down trailer homes that they were currently residing in was a great feeling and experience that I will always treasure.”

 

Luke Cooper (third from left) and the rest of the mission trip group

Luke Cooper (third from left) and the rest of the mission trip group

 

Although the participants note that the impact of their service is limited within the grand scale of the Pine Ridge reservation, they were glad to have provided long-term change for those two families, who now have suitable homes.

 

Kris Wise (right) serving at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Kris Wise (right) serving at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

 

Participating in mission trips together likewise strengthens the NLP community and the bonds between our participants. They are able and encouraged to work on several different projects throughout the week. Kris Wise writes:

 
“I chose to do a different [project] each day. By doing that I got to work with different people every day. I got to know some of the Native Americans who had a few stories to share with me… I also got to work with different guys from the farm who I didn’t really hang out with before. That was nice because I got to develop new friendships.”

 
The synergistic impact of the Lakota and NLP communities is the reason why the Whiteclay Mission Trip continues to be one of the most meaningful weeks for Harvest Farm each year. In paying forward the hope and help they have received at Harvest Farm, participants expand their personal growth and bear witness to the power and possibility of attaining new life. We hope that through continued prayer and missions to Whiteclay, our men at Harvest Farm can continue to bring healing to this community every year.

Shrinking But Still Growing :: An Update From Harvest Farm

This past November, our beloved Garden Supervisor Kelly Ballantyne resigned from Harvest Farm so that he and his family could pursue some new and interesting opportunities up in Alaska. During Kelly’s time here, our garden took on a life of its own and became one of the most integral aspects of our operation. We were able to grow abundant amounts of fresh produce not only for our kitchen that feeds our New Life Program participants, but for other partners in the Wellington and Fort Collins area as well as for the local food bank. Most importantly, we offered our garden participants good work, work that had value with a tangible goal in mind: feeding hungry people.

Now, however, we do not have the Garden Supervisor position at the farm. When word of this got out, my phone began to ring off the hook. Friends and allies of the farm came out of the woodwork, wondering what they could do to keep our garden afloat. We had offers of donations, both of money and time, in the hopes that we could keep the garden open.

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Of course, I loved the garden as much as anyone, if not more. I had seen firsthand the benefits of our garden program, witnessed lives of men transformed as they scraped out the soil from beneath their fingernails after a long day of weeding. But, without someone staffing it, things needed to change and we had a choice: Either keep on moaning or get creative.

We chose to get creative.

Led by our Agriculture Supervisor, Brian Newman, and our Maintenance Supervisor, Ben Bender, we reduced our allotted garden acreage by almost 2/3, consolidating growing space to a more manageable scale. We planted our now unusable garden spaces with perennial native grass for our Jersey cows to graze, and they don’t seem too chagrined with the new arrangement. Newman started reading up on greenhouse growing and immediately enlisted the help of local volunteers to start seeds in the greenhouse that are flourishing as I write this. We built a new mobile hoop and we are able to supply farm fresh produce—Swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce and more–to our kitchen every day to feed our New Life Program participants, staff, guests and volunteers. The garlic is sprouting, the tomatoes and peppers are thriving in the greenhouse, and every day all of our seedlings and sprouts are tended to by the men in our Agriculture Department.

 

So, while it’s true that we can’t do what we did the past few years with Kelly here, we haven’t stopped our passionate pursuit of growing healthy and delicious food at Harvest Farm.

There is opportunity in every event if we choose to get creative. Sometimes, complaining is easier than taking action, because there is nothing to lose when we complain, except perhaps our capacity to hope. If the felon is convinced that he will never get a job due to his criminal record, then he will probably be right. If the addict believes that grace and healing can never come to him as a result of his past behavior, he will probably be right.

But at this Farm, I’ve seen numerous felons get jobs and countless addicts find freedom and wholeness. How? By refusing to despair, by maintaining focus and determination, and by viewing every event as an opportunity instead of an obstacle.

So, if you’re ever in the Wellington area and want to see a farm abounding in opportunities and grace, swing on into the dining hall around lunch time and we’ll show you what we’re all about. We’ll be here, still growing.

To learn more about Harvest Farm and the work we do every day, visit www.HarvestFarm.net.

Are You Happy?

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Mountain-View-High_HF-Guest-Speakers_edited_02_sml cropped

 

“Maybe this is a stupid question,” a young woman said timidly. “But I was wondering, how are you doing now and are you happy?” The question came during an afternoon class at Mountain View High School in Loveland, Colorado, after about 40 minutes of New Life Program participants Ben and Jaime sharing their stories of what brought them to the Mission.

For Ben, experiences when he was a child and the influence of drug addicts in his life led him to choose the same lifestyle. But after 30 years of violence and dealing drugs, Ben realized it was time to change. He read a message from his mother to the class—something she had written to him, pleading for him to stop his drug-ridden lifestyle. She spoke about how the kind and gentle boy she knew had been overcome by someone angry and willing to steal from his own family just to get high. It was an emotional letter, one that Ben keeps as a reminder of how far he’s come.

Jaime had a different experience. Coerced into a gang at just 11 years old, most of his childhood was spent dealing drugs, fighting and committing crimes. He described what it was like to watch friends die, to watch other friends turn their backs on him, to get shot, and to spend time in prison.

The tattoos across his face were a pretty clear indication of the type of life he’d lived in just 24 years, but the smile on his face showed something changing underneath. With all the weight of their stories hanging heavy in the air, the question from this student was fitting.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been,” Ben answered. “I have nothing, but I have everything.”

Jaime chimed in next. “Prison didn’t teach me anything. When I got out, I didn’t know what to do so I went back to dealing drugs,” he explained. “At the Farm, I’m learning how to deal with the struggles in my life instead of running from them.”

The visit was part of a regular community service opportunity for men in the New Life Program at Harvest Farm. As these men experience change in their lives, they are given the opportunity to give back and share their story with students during a critical time in their lives. “If even one of you gets something out of us being here today, it’s worth it,” Ben said.

This was the first time Jaime had shared his story with kids, but he says he wants to do it again. He’s glad that his negative experiences can be used to positively influence someone’s life as he learns from his past and builds a new future.

For more information about our New Life Program at Harvest Farm, visit HarvestFarm.net.

It’s Volunteer Appreciation Week!

17 DRM Volunteer Appreciation FB Cover

April 23-29 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week and we’re celebrating! Here at the Mission, volunteers are our heroes. They serve meals with a caring smile, tutor kids who are behind in school, spend time mentoring adults & children, care for kids in transition, sort donations and so much more to help our organization flourish as we do God’s work.

We’re excited to share the passion and commitment of these seven featured volunteers. Read their stories below and consider signing up to make an impact at www.denverrescuemission.org/volunteer.

Thanks for all you do to #SERVEDenver and #SERVENoCo!

Steven Walker

Steven Walker

Steven serves three times a week at our Lawrence Street Community Center (LSCC) in downtown Denver. He greets guests, scans their badges and hands out silverware. “I greatly enjoy the one-on-one contact with the Mission’s guests. I want them to feel welcome and know this is a place where there is no judgement,” says Steven.

Steven was blown away by our new LSCC facility when it opened and wanted to be part of it. “Blessings have been bestowed on me. Volunteering is just one small way I can pay back this gratitude,” says Steven.

We’re grateful you chose the Mission, Steven!

 

Melissa Thevenin

Melissa Thevenin

Melissa enjoys giving her time once a week as a Work Therapy Engagement Volunteer at Harvest Farm and working in the kitchen at Fort Collins Rescue Mission.

“Every person is unique and so many are hilarious. They energize me with their perseverance, and I enjoy hearing their stories and talking about their interests and goals,” says Melissa.

She was nervous at first because she didn’t feel qualified, but Melissa quickly learned that all she had to do was show up and be herself. “You’ve probably heard the quote, ‘God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.’ I never believed that until I became a volunteer at Harvest Farm.”

Not only is Melissa positively impacting our program participants and guests, God is working in her heart in the process too.

Linda Parker

Linda Parker

Linda finds her passion for volunteering in our kitchens — she feeds lunch to our hungry men, women and children at The Crossing every Tuesday and serves up breakfast on Saturday mornings at the Lawrence Street Community Center.

“My heart aches for all the participants but when I am on the line serving, I have an opportunity to say hello, offer a smile and another chance to do what Jesus would do,” says Linda.

We are so grateful to have her smiling face at our facilities every week!

Larry Lewis

Larry Lewis

For nearly three years, Larry has helped lead the worship service at our Fort Collins Rescue Mission chapel.

When asked why he likes volunteering at the Mission, Larry said “It’s real. I love looking at the variety of faces of children and knowing no matter where that person is today that God can provide healing and hope.”

Larry’s voice and his words make our guests feel lighter and happier every time they enter the chapel, and we can’t thank him enough for sharing his talents. “I certainly receive much more from volunteering than I could ever give,” adds Larry.

The Spicers

The Spicers

The Spicer’s are one of our most dedicated volunteer duos! Russ teaches Fly Fishing Basics to our men in recovery at Harvest Farm. While Tina provides foot care for our guests twice a month at Fort Collins Rescue Mission.

Russ takes our men out on the river a few times a year and says “I enjoy helping the men at Harvest Farm know that they can have fun in a clean, healthy way.”

One of Tina’s most memorable experiences as a volunteer was when she brought some friends with her to the Mission’s Easter Banquet where they washed the feet of our homeless guests, just as Jesus did with his disciples. “Being allowed to serve others in this way is humbling and very rewarding,” says Tina.

Duane Barker

Duane Barker

Duane has been volunteering with us at Harvest Farm since August of 2015. He feels privileged to walk with and pray for the men in our New Life Program that they may find healing and deliverance.

“I have a farming background and every farmer knows there’s an investment before the Harvest. I’m investing a piece of my daily life into my Father’s ‘farm’,” as Duane explains it.

Duane’s heart for serving our men is incredible and we know that they feel encouraged after each encounter with him. Thank you, Duane!

The transformative process of Work Therapy at Denver Rescue Mission

Oct. 10, 2008 is the date I graduated from the New Life Program at Harvest Farm.

This date is important to me because it is the anniversary of my new life, freedom, and happiness. The anniversary of my sobriety is June of 2007 which is also when I joined the New Life Program. It is meaningful, but not nearly as important to me. I feel that rehab wasn’t the start of anything; it was more like the end of a nightmare. Before entering the New Life Program at Harvest Farm I had been in two other “sober living programs.” The first program I attended was 60 days long and consisted of a lot of group therapy, Alcoholics Anonymous and DUI classes, (I attended this specific program twice, so I guess you could say I was in 3 programs.) The second program focused on mental health disorders and how they affect addiction. I don’t think these programs were inconsequential, but they definitely did not give me what I needed to change my life. What I did need to help change my life was a realization that I could change it, for the better.

When a person gets used to doing the same thing (good or bad) every day it is very hard to get out of that cycle. It’s like that job that you hate but you keep going to because you’re afraid to quit because you don’t know how to do anything else. Being an addict is a job in itself, except you lose money. It takes all of your time, burns you out, makes you angry, and ruins your relationships.  I came to Harvest Farm needing something to replace the monotonous, destructive, disastrous work that my addiction had become and work is exactly what I got.

Josh Dickinson

Starting my journey to sobriety back in 2008 at Harvest Farm’s New Life Program.

Work Therapy was one of the highlights of my time at Harvest Farm and every day I see it change the mentality of the men who come into the New Life Program at Harvest Farm. After getting sober at Harvest Farm, I was actually hired as the Work Therapy Supervisor. In this role, I am charged with figuring out how the men who are assigned to work with me can be utilized to benefit their program and Harvest Farm. Every man has different skills; some have been doing the same job every day for 25 years and don’t know that life is not about work, others have barely lifted a finger to do anything and they don’t know that work can be fun. It’s incredible to work alongside such a diverse group of guys trying to change their lives for the better.

Me (back row second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm

Me (back row; second from the right) and fellow staff members at Harvest Farm.

At Denver Rescue Mission, our goal is to help New Life Program participants understand that becoming a productive, self-sufficient person can be enjoyable. The program provides education, life skills training, and spiritual and emotional counseling, which sets a strong foundation for a self-sufficient life.

Even after graduation, many New Life Program graduates participate in our Post-Graduate Program, which provides further mentoring, accountability, counseling, and financial assistance. Graduates also mentor others, as well as volunteer for the Mission. Just like me – these graduates get a chance to inspire other men and help them towards sobriety.

October 10 has come and gone and I celebrated eight years of being a New Life Program graduate. I’m proud to say that life doesn’t feel like “work” any more.