Harvest House in Destin is in need of food for Christmas bags and volunteers

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Not only is the Harvest House Destin in need of food, but volunteers. 

The mission of Harvest House Food Pantry and Thrift Store on Mountain Drive in Destin is to provide food, clothing and shelter to those who are less fortunate. 

Right now, Harvest House is gathering food for an all-inclusive Christmas dinner, which is “everything down to the ham, everything you would cook in your own home,” said Lori Joyner, executive director of Harvest House. 

Lori Joyner, executive director of the Harvest House, checks out the inventory earlier this week in the food pantry. Although it looks like the shelves are full, Joyner said items go quickly when they start bagging them up for families.

Harvest House has 76 people on the list for Christmas dinner bags. 

“The problem this year is getting my hands on what we put in the bags,” she said. 

A couple of those items she’s having a hard time finding are scalloped potatoes and frozen vegetables. 

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“It has been so much more of a struggle trying to buy the food for the Thanksgiving bags and the Christmas bags and even just our shelves in general,” she said. 

Another example is canned carrots.

“We can’t get our hands on carrots when we go to the stores. ... We’ve tried all kinds of methods,” she said. “Basically, food pantries need folks to go out and purchase the donations and bring them by.”

Joyner said Harvest House tries post on its Facebook Page items that are needed. 

Plus, keep Harvest House in mind when catching those “buy one, get one free” items at the grocery store. 

“You may not always need the extra mayonnaise, but you could bring it here,” she said. 

Canned carrots have been hard to find in recent days.

Harvest House accepts food donations Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a special table out front just for food. 

When asked what the biggest need was, Joyner said, “Just everything. Yes, it looks like we have a lot, but once we start bagging it up, it goes super fast."

Recently, the Destin Rotary Club had money to give and Jason Belcher went and shopped for the house. 

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“Even if we go shopping and fill up two carts, it still doesn’t fill us up,” Joyner said. 

The Christmas dinner bags are for families in the area from Destin out to Mack Bayou in Walton County. 

“And we’re down to crunch time,” Joyner said. 

The bags will be given out Dec. 20, and then the Harvest House will close Dec. 22 for the holidays and reopen on Jan. 3, 2022. 

Harvest House in Destin is at 300 Mountain Drive. Pictured here is the staff (front row from left) Raven Holley, Rachel Hopfer and Lori Joyner. Back row from left are Kate Meyer, Susie Blow and Isela Duenes.

The organization asks that no donations be dropped off during the closure. 

If people want to give, they can do so through PayPal or by going online to harvesthousedestin.org. 

And after the holidays, Harvest House will still need help. 

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“That’s when all the donations go down,” she said. 

As a matter of fact, Joyner said donations have been down all year. 

“This year we really haven’t gotten the quantity of food donations that we normally have,” she said, noting that the increased price of food may be the culprit. 

But the Christmas season depletes the shelves. 

Another trend Joyner has noticed is that people Harvest House hasn’t seen in three or four years are starting to come back for help. 

Catherine Cattarello is just one of three volunteers at Harvest House. More volunteers are needed.

“I think it’s because everything is so expensive. ... Rent has gone up, everything is going up,” she said. 

Harvest House is a Christian nonprofit that is “here just to fill the gap,” she said. But to help fill the gap, Harvest House is in need of volunteers. 

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, Harvest House had 11 volunteers.  

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“Then we went down to literally one,” Joyner said. 

“We need volunteers. We need volunteers desperately,” she said, noting that the organization now has three. 

Volunteers help to pack food in the food pantry, test out electronics or hang clothes, to name a few tasks. 

“We always need something,” Joyner said. 

Personal hygiene items are always needed at Harvest House.

“We will schedule them in, it can be a few hours to every other week situation. We just need volunteers,” she said. 

“We’re God’s hands and feet around here. We’re using it to put it on the tables to relieve the stress, and there’s a lot of stress in the world,” Joyner added.

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“God has been good to us and he always provides for us. He’s taken care of our area for 35 years,” she added. 

Harvest House is at 300 Mountain Drive in Destin.