The valuable partnership fostered between Union Gospel Mission of Salem and Salem Harvest helps Mission guests and residents heal in mind, body, and spirit.
Salem Harvest, a non-profit organization, distributes food without charge to children, homeless, unemployed, elderly, or low-income individuals. Through the helpful hands of generous volunteers, Salem Harvest gleans produce from local farms that would have otherwise gone to waste.
There are a few ways UGM and Salem Harvest intersect.
For one, when Salem Harvest donates handpicked produce to food distribution facilities like Marion Polk Food Share, we reap the benefits—the Food Share is one of our highest-volume food suppliers.
While there are a couple degrees of separation, Salem Harvest’s contribution to the Salem-Keizer community trickles down to UGM and makes our aim to serve nutritious meals possible.
Five years ago, Salem Harvest Executive Director Elise Bauman proposed a new facet to our partnership, an opportunity that would further healing to our guests while they selflessly serve others: as often as possible, women staying at Simonka Place can pick produce alongside Salem Harvest.
“Being outside, working in the fields – gardening, if you will – is very therapeutic,” says Director of Women’s Ministry Kathy Smith. “The act of picking, itself, allows opportunities for the women to get outside of their heads and into something beautiful, something that gives them significance by doing something helpful and meaningful.”
UGM believes that everyone has something to contribute. To not allow our guests the opportunity to pitch in would rob them of growth, reward, and purpose.
“It’s so nice to get away and not think about myself and my problems, not to mention being able to eat what we are picking! Everybody in the house likes that we do it, too,” shares one Simonka Place resident.
Over the years, the list of delicious whole foods the ladies from Simonka Place have picked and brought back to the house to share has grown: watermelon, zucchini, beans, blueberries, onions, peaches, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and almost every kind of produce you can think of.
In summarizing the value and impact that Salem Harvest has had on UGM, Kathy says it best:
“Partnering with Salem Harvest is a wonderful example of how UGM is community-connected. We think about so many of the obvious connections with agencies, but this is where we are truly partnering: meeting a community need while they are meeting our needs.”
At different levels, UGM and Salem Harvest are tackling food insecurity in our community—Salem Harvest’s food donations may help prevent low-income folks teetering on the brink of homelessness while UGM provides the nourishment homeless men and women need to make healthy choices in their lives and take the next best step.