“Go to the people, live among them, learn from them, love them, start with what they know, build on what they have: but of the best leaders, when their task is done, the people will remark, We have done it ourselves." – Chinese Proverb
Harvest Hands began as a vision of the late Dr. Howard Olds—former pastor of Brentwood United Methodist Church—to partner with an urban neighborhood in Nashville for positive change. The idea centered on sharing resources, experiences, and expertise of the church and congregation in relationship with neighbors in South Nashville. In 2007, Brentwood UMC hired Rev. Brian Hicks to lead the efforts in making this vision a reality. Brian, with a newly formed Board of Directors, worked to charter Harvest Hands Community Development Corporation. In July of that year, Harvest Hands CDC was founded in Wedgewood-Houston with the mission to be "On a journey together for wholeness in South Nashville."
With the invitation of the local Neighborhood Association in South Nashville (SNAP), we began working with neighborhood residents to determine the assets and needs of the community and how we might work together to address our shared concerns. Since that time, we have grown to establish programs in education, healthy living, spiritual formation, and economic development. You can learn more about each of our programs here.
As Nashville developed, several of our target neighborhoods began to experience a fast rate of redevelopment and gentrification, and many of the families we served could no longer afford to live in the community. In 2015 we made the strategic decision to move from Wedgewood-Houston to the heart of Napier-Sudekum, one of the three most violent districts in Nashville. We bought and refurbished a warehouse surrounded by government housing to serve as a community center, and we are now able to provide easy access to our programming to an at-risk community.
Our facility houses a gym, community playground, and a micro-business that brings jobs to the neighborhood and teaches young adults business skills, all resources lacking in a community marked by youth violence and drug use. Since the move in 2016, we have doubled the number of people our programs serve, created a higher potential for program growth, and are able to live among the people we serve—a value at the heart of our mission.
Everything that we do is born out of a need in the community. Our mission is not simply to “help” our neighbors but to work alongside them, empowering them to bring about positive change within themselves, their families, and the neighborhood. It is our main goal to empower our neighbors—both young and old—to come to know their fullest potential in Christ.