From the desk of Harvest Foundation President Kate Keller
This month we mark the 20th Anniversary of The Harvest Foundation. We’ve been celebrating all year internally, but this month our community celebration begins with the launch of our 20th Anniversary Report and the big announcement of Project Hope. Both of these help us to see the progress MHC has made over the last 20 years and how we still work together as a community to meet local needs.
In the early days of the Foundation, MHC was still reeling from the loss of textiles, furniture, and manufacturing. We started then and continue to today a strong focus on economic development and increasing job opportunities. A 20-year focus created one of our largest industrial parks — Commonwealth Crossing — and an expansion of the Patriot Centre. These sites allowed us to recruit such businesses at Schock GmbH, Press Glass, and Crown Holdings, while we also supported the expansion of several existing companies, such as Eastman and Monogram Snacks. All of these efforts significantly increased the number of jobs in our community and increased local average wages.
However, our community needs more than jobs and new companies; it needs to be a community in which people can thrive. Health and Education are key drivers of a thriving community. Over the past twenty years, Harvest collaborated with the community to establish the Coalition for Health and Wellness, the Community Dental Clinic, the Hope Center, and many other health-related programs.
From day one, Harvest partnered with all local schools to support professional development for teachers and continues to build and strengthen our early childhood system. Two of our best efforts to support our youth include the creation of the Harvest Youth Board and our announcement last year of a 13-year commitment to the SEED Fund program, guaranteeing that all of our youth have the promise of college.
A thriving community also needs places for people to be healthy, play, and connect with their friends and neighbors. A few of our efforts in that regard include, of course, the extensive trail system, so we can all get out and walk, run, skip, or bike. Along the Dick & Willie Trail, you get to walk along the Smith River, which now has 14 access points for everyone to use the river. We supported the opening of the marina at Philpott Lake, helping to expand the airport, and last but not least, the sports complex.
All of these activities have strengthened our community.
It hasn’t all been easy, and not everything we tried has worked, but that’s one of the reasons we are here: To help our community try.
The past couple of years have been trying on all of us. Harvest pivoted its work in 2020 to support COVID-related efforts: testing, vaccines, early childhood, small business support, and broadband access.
While we continue some of these efforts, we are looking ahead. As you know, this year we launched our current strategic plan. This plan continues to support efforts in health, education, and a vibrant community, but it also has a North Star of Hope. With Hope as our North Star, we will work diligently with our community partners to create spaces and places for people to connect and engage. By building community connections, we can help to rebuild Hope together.