The recipient of the Community Partner of the Year award is chosen based on their commitment to powerful impact in communities, fostering active citizenship, and utilizing the efforts of alternative break groups to forward their vision.
Community Partner: Harvest Farm - Wellington, Colorado
Site Contact: Heather Pulley - Northern Colorado Volunteer Coordinator, Harvest Farm & Fort Collins Rescue Mission
Nominator: Kristen Brady - Alternative Spring Break Site & Service Development Chair, Vanderbilt University
“At Harvest Farm, … rather than complete our own service projects, we worked alongside the men in each of [their work therapy areas]... they were the ones with the ownership over the service. This allowed for us to be on an equal level with those we were serving and become a part of the community. It helped create a space where we were exchanging stories and conversation all day with those whom we worked. This level of full engagement was unlike any other service trip because of the emphasis on relationships.”
About the Organization
Harvest Farm is a recovery center for men struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, with the long-term goal of breaking the cycles of addiction and homelessness. By combining academics, life skills classes, Bible study, work therapy, and counseling in a 27 month curriculum, Harvest Farm provides participants with the skills, stability, and self-esteem to reintegrate as productive and self-sufficient members of society. As a non-profit, Harvest Farm is able to provide this opportunity to up to 72 men at a time for no charge, to combat the lack of access to affordable rehabilitation.
Connections to Community
Because Harvest Farm is under the umbrella of the Denver Rescue Mission, they are in direct connection with several programs working at the intersections of homelessness and addiction. Programs like the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and “Mom’s Closet” - providing needed clothing, food, household items, and furniture - further work to connect farm participants with members of the local community. The farm provides shuttles for participants to attend church, AA or NA meetings, counseling, and employment off the farm to more easily transition back into the community.
“[Heather] engages several Denver and Fort Collins community members in year-long volunteer opportunities, by asking people to come share the things they love with the men on the farm. Through this, she has helped create a running and hiking club that promotes members of the community and participants of the program enjoying life activities together.”
Volunteers engaged in work
At Harvest Farm, volunteers work on projects alongside residents involved in work therapy each day. Areas of work include Kitchen, Agriculture, Gardening, Maintenance, and Fleet.
"While our pre-site education on the issue of addiction was helpful, it was the personal stories that made the education meaningful.”
Volunteers spend most of their time at the farm engaging with the residents: working alongside them during service projects, listening to stories, playing kickball, and eating every meal together.
“Through the design of the service, we were able to enter the community for the week, by eating the same food, doing the same work, and sleeping in the same conditions… Rather than receive training from the director, we received all of our training from participants in the program. The men were showing us how to complete the tasks, teaching us tricks, and providing us with the resources to succeed. This shifted the power from us to the population we were serving…”
Compelling Issue Education, Orientation, and Training
Heather, the Volunteer Coordinator ensured that volunteers had an in-depth educational experience about the organization. She made herself available for questions every morning and allowed volunteers to sit in on classes.
“At the end of the week, she arranged a panel that included several employees on the farm. We had an opportunity to ask any questions we had - hearing the differing perspectives of a participant, counselor, graduate of the program, full time worker, and herself.”
Support for Reorientation
“[Heather] encouraged us to find ways to be active citizens on Harvest Farm or in our own community. At the end of the week, she provided all of us with information about internships and volunteer opportunities that they have, showing that we can continue at Harvest Farm beyond this one week.”
Heather also encouraged students to send letters to the men on the farm, allowing continued relationships through a pen pal program. She sparked conversations with students about ways to stay involved in the issue through continued conversations with friends and family who may be dealing with addiction in their own lives. She helped draw connections to education and dialogue about drug legalization, effective rehabilitation, and other major issues.
“The most important part of being an active citizen are the ways in which that gets spread to the formation of other active citizens, and Heather embodied that unique and important characteristic.”
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