'Harvest of Hope' Mission Program Celebrates 25 Years

April 15, 2010

Program teaches youth about the problem of hunger and how to be part of the solution

The Society of St. Andrew, a Virginia-based national hunger relief organization and Advance #801600, has been gleaning America's fields and feeding America's hungry for over 30 years. This year, they celebrate the 25th anniversary of their Harvest of Hope program.
Harvest of Hope (HOH) is a mission retreat program that focuses on hunger issues and the Christian response. This life-changing event has impacted over 12,000 participants during the last 25 years – and it continues to grow. "In fact, more first-time groups are attending than ever before," reported Scott Briggs, Director of Harvest of Hope
"I believe that Harvest of Hope truly embodies the mission statement of the Society of St. Andrew: to provide food for the body, God's word for the spirit, a community of love for the heart, and an opportunity for those who desire action," said Julie Taylor, former HOH director. Worship, study, and gleaning – the biblical practice of picking leftover crops after the harvest – are integral aspects of the HOH experience. In addition, good nutrition and a simplified and sustainable lifestyle are both strongly emphasized.
The week-long and weekend events are targeted toward specific audiences – Jr. High, High School, College-age, and intergenerational groups. Each event is focused on gleaning and education of hunger issues. Participants are from all walks of life and are bonded together by a common purpose – to do something about hunger. "It has been a great, enlightening experience. I think I found a new kind of faith that I never thought I would experience in my life. Thanks for opening me up to a spiritual reality that I wouldn't have otherwise seen," said a recent participant. 
An alternative spring break event was added last year and proof of its success was demonstrated this year as participation tripled. Four colleges that had previously never volunteered with Harvest of Hope sent groups this year. The event was a huge success with many of the participants making plans to attend HOH Phase II – an opportunity in our nation's capital for participants who have previously attended an HOH event.
Phase II picks up where Harvest of Hope leaves off and offers a more intense study on hunger and poverty issues. Phase II takes place in Washington D.C. and is centered around agency work and advocacy efforts. "I have been changed for the better. My eyes have been opened about hungry people in the area, country, and the world," remarked Helen Melshen, a college student who attended the 2010 HOH alternative spring break.
Many of Harvest of Hope's past participants have been so impacted by their specific experience at an event that they have gone on to careers in mission and social work in adulthood. "Although I have many fantastic memories from recent Harvest of Hope events my favorite one actually took place at my very first event, which I participated in with my youth group in 1995," said Lauren Holcomb, who is a former HOH director and currently pursuing a career in social work. "Six of us attended the weeklong Eastern Shore event that year, and it was the first time at HOH for all of us. Needless to say for anyone who has gone to an event, the Hunger Awareness Meal was really shocking to us! I realized that I needed to learn to be more giving in my own life. The event demonstrated exactly how God wants us to live... and how He gives so abundantly and freely to us despite our shortcomings." Betsy Edwards, former participant and HOH summer intern, is another example of a person directly influenced by the HOH experience – she has worked for a food bank in Oakland, CA in an advocacy program and currently works for FRAC (Food Research and Action Center).
Harvest of Hope is already well into the 25th year of impacting the lives of volunteering participants and the poor that are fed through their efforts. A very successful alternative spring break event has been wrapped up and HOH is looking forward to Phase II in June and 11 more week-long and week-end events before the end of the year.
There is still time to join with others who intend on doing something about hunger this year. Contact Scott Briggs for more information about the 2010 Harvest of Hope schedule at (800) 333-4597 or sosahoh@endhunger.org.

Support for Harvest of Hope can be made online to 
UMCOR Advance #801600. 100% of gifts to UMCOR through the Advance support the designated project. You may also phone 800-554-8583.
Society of St. Andrew is an ecumenical nonprofit ministry that saves fresh nutritious produce from going to waste and donates it to critical feeding agencies all across the country. Started in 1979 it has grown to be the nation's leading gleaning operation – working in all of the lower 48 states. There are three main programs – the Gleaning Network, the Potato & Produce Project, and Harvest of Hope. More information about the Society of St. Andrew and its work to feed the hungry of America is available online at www.endhunger.org.