Harvest Hands began as a vision of the late Dr. Howard Olds—former pastor of Brentwood United Methodist Church—to partner with an under-resourced neighborhood in Nashville for positive change. The idea centered on sharing resources, experiences, and expertise of the church in relationship with neighbors in South Nashville. In 2007, Brentwood UMC hired Rev. Brian Hicks to lead the effort in making this vision a reality.
With the invitation of the local neighborhood association in South Nashville (SNAP), we began asking neighborhood residents what they loved about their community, as well as what needs they felt. We dreamed with our neighbors about how we might work together to address the concerns. Over and over again we heard that students in the neighborhood were getting in trouble because they didn’t have anything constructive to do after school. In the spring of 2008, in response to this community need, we launched an after school program.
At the time, we had 12 students and a handful of volunteers in a small house. Since that time, we have grown to serve 100 students every day in programs furthering 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 rapid rate of redevelopment and gentrification, and many of the families we served could no longer afford to live in the community. In 2016, we made the strategic decision to move from Wedgewood-Houston to the heart of Napier-Sudekum, an area that experiences a high rate of poverty, violence, and joblessness.
Our facility houses after school programs, a gym, a community playground, and a social enterprise (Humphreys Street) that brings jobs to the neighborhood and teaches teens business skills. Since the move in 2016, we have doubled the number of people served by our programs and created a higher potential for program growth.
Though we relocated our base of operations to Napier-Sudekum, we kept the building we owned in Wedegwood-Houston. In 2018, we were able to renovate this building to open Humphreys Street Coffee Shop, the first brick-and-mortar store for our social enterprise. Humphreys Street Coffee Shop allows us to hire more students and generate more revenue to pour back into our neighborhood.
Everything that we do is born out of a need in the community. It is our main goal to empower our neighbors—both young and old—to come to know their fullest potential in Christ. 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 their neighborhood.