Giving Back Together
When Dave and Darien Harmer first heard about the Weekend Backpack Program, they knew it was a cause they wanted to support. With a son in high school, the issue felt personal.
After hearing about the Weekend Backpack Program on the radio during Ozarks Food Harvest’s annual Hungerthon, the Harmers realized this would be an opportunity to help local children while teaching their son, Matt, that food insecurity can affect anyone, even fellow classmates.
The Harmers have always felt that it’s important to give back to your community. Three years ago, the family moved to Springfield from Colorado, where they had already volunteered at events such as health fairs and food drives. After moving to Springfield, Ozarks Food Harvest’s Weekend Backpack Program provided them with the perfect opportunity to support their new neighbors in southwest Missouri.
Dave and Darien first decided to contribute monetary donations, choosing to give monthly after Hungerthon. Their monthly support soon inspired them to look into donating their time as well.
“We thought that volunteering at Ozarks Food Harvest would be a good way to support a cause we care about while showing Matt how what he does affects others,” says Darien, “We also liked that the volunteer sessions could provide routine and responsibility in preparation for his future job.”
The Harmers enjoy volunteering as a family, typically working side by side in the assembly lines. For the Harmers, it feels good to give back, and it’s even better when they give back together.
Dave and Darien are grateful to share these experiences with their son, but the couple have also discovered that volunteering makes an excellent date night. In addition to weekly Saturday volunteer sessions as a family, Dave and Darien make sure to sign up for a second session every Tuesday just for themselves.
“Dave and I enjoy having date nights at Ozarks Food Harvest because we can catch up and talk, but it also allows us to work on teamwork,” explains Darien.
Dave agrees saying, “It’s not something we can do on an average date night at home. We get to help each other out, and it’s nice to be giving back together.”
The family’s weekly volunteer sessions have now become a part of their routine. After volunteering since October of 2021, the Harmers say they feel like regulars. Between work, school, and six dogs, much of the Harmers’ time is centered around home life. Their time at Ozarks Food Harvest is a good way to get out and make connections. Dave and Darien particularly notice the sense of community they feel from the volunteers and coaches.
“We get to know the other regular volunteers,” they say, “And the coaches recognize us and get to know us. One of the coaches, Andrew, finds a way to connect with all of the volunteers. He’s very personable and so good with Matt.”
The Harmers have learned a lot about food banks and food insecurity from Ozarks Food Harvest. Since becoming volunteers, they have further realized what many families in the Ozarks face on a weekly basis and the impact of the Food Bank’s programs in southwest Missouri.
“It’s only three hours at a time,” says Darien, “In just three hours, we can build hundreds of backpacks or senior boxes. It’s cool to think about what that little bit of time can produce. Sometimes people sit around for more than three hours. We’re glad that we can use that time to give back and do something good. Plus, we have fun!”
Ozarks Food Harvest is grateful for volunteers like the Harmers, whose time and support provide child-friendly food items to the nearly 1,600 children benefitting from the Weekend Backpack Program. To learn more about Ozarks Food Harvest’s programs and how you can help, visit ozarksfoodharvest.org/volunteer.