News and Events
The Lord’s Harvest was featured in the Asheville Citizen-Times on August 4, 2019!
Read the article below!!!
With U.S. Census data showing that nearly one-in-five local residents live at or below the poverty line, addressing food insecurity in Madison County is a real challenge. Here, thanks to nonprofits, churches and community groups, the safety net extends far beyond federal programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which serves upwards of 3,600 county residents each month. The local effort fills gaps to help ensure that residents in need get the nutrition they need.
“If I was somebody who wanted to learn how to take care of the people in the county I was living in, I'd go to Madison County,” said Bill Welsch.
A food distribution at the Beacon of Hope exemplifies how community groups help address food insecurity across Madison County. (Photo: Paul Moon/The News-Record & Sentinel)
An Ohio native who moved to Mars Hill around 10 years ago, Welsch plays a key role in the local food assistance network as the co-founder of The Lord’s Harvest. Launched in 2011 with wife Sharon, the nonprofit helps feed around 1,600 area families each month by supplying roughly 20 distribution points with potatoes, pinto beans, cornmeal, rice and onions.
“I’m not putting junk in there. There’s no cookies or candy or what not,” Welsch said of the fresh ingredients he provides. “Just decent stuff to eat.”
To Bill, the food The Lord’s Harvest provides matches the Scottish-Irish heritage of the local community. “They like it,” he said of the traditional fare. For younger beneficiaries, Welsch includes recipes to help them make the most of the staples provided. “There’s a lot of young, unmarried mothers so the recipes help.”
The Lord's Harvest contributes traditional staples - rice, potatoes, pinto beans, onions and cornmeal - to food distributions run by nonprofits and churches across Madison County. (Photo: Paul Moon/The News-Record & Sentinel)
When the nonprofit first got off the ground, Bill and Sharon tried to cultivate and harvest food to share with those in need. “For the first three years, we tried to grow stuff,” Welsch remembered. “Then I realized we can’t keep taking money and flushing it down the toilet. We just weren’t doing any good trying to grow stuff.”
The challenges of farming combined with only seasonal availability of food motivated the Welsch’s to change tack. He now estimates he covers over 1,000 miles each month picking up food both donated from Manna Food Bank and purchased from the WNC Farmers Market and Ingels.
Bill Welsch estimates he drives about 1,000 miles each month picking up and delivering food for The Lord's Harvest. (Photo: Paul Moon/The News-Record & Sentinel)
“The baseball, basketball and football teams from Mars Hill University will help us unload stuff,” Welsh said.
The Welschs then work to sort and separate food - even grinding the corn for the corn meal - before grouping items together for food distributions in every corner of the county. In 2019, they estimate they’ll share over 200,000 pounds of food to organizations like the Salvation Army, Neighbors and Need and Beacon of Hope.
The Lord’s Harvest also supports food distributions at about seven churches across the county. “There are 54 Baptist churches in Madison County, so we’re only scratching the surface,” Bill said. “Linda gets a little nervous with me because usually I found somebody who has a need and I just keep adding on and adding on. There are a lot of people hungry in this county.”
Bill Welsh founded The Lord's Harvest with his wife Sharon. (Photo: Paul Moon/The News-Record & Sentinel)
Bill doesn’t take a salary and all donations support food purchases and deliveries. While the Welschs have taken the lead in managing operations – with Bill doing literally most of the heavy lifting himself – they know the future of organization will rest on someone else’s shoulders. An army veteran, Bill has connected with those he served to generate a strong donor base for the nonprofit that he believes can support a salary for a full-time staffer. “We’ve never had to worry about money,” he said. “It’s always been there.”
Bill hopes that when he does decide to pullback on supply runs, that he’ll have more time to connect with those benefiting from food support. “I love this because of the people,” Bill said. “This county, there’s a real spirit of cooperation here, especially when it comes to giving stuff away.”
To learn more about The Lord’s Harvest, visit lordsharvestforthehungry.org.
Thankful for Flat Creek Baptist!
We had a visit from Flat Creek Baptist and their youth and leadership on Wednesday, July 17. They knocked out 165 boxes (1,948 pounds) of potatoes, pinto beans, rice and onions in about 40 minutes! These boxes will be delivered on Friday, July 19. So thankful for this wonderful group and their sweet spirits!
Summer Newsletter 2019!
Half the year is over!!!
Dearest Friends and Family,
Happy Summer! What a busy time we continue to have at The Lord’s Harvest. We are thankful to have been blessed by two great groups who volunteered during June. We had an intergenerational group from Forks of Ivy Baptist Church in Madison County and a group of eighth graders and their leaders from Westover Church in High Point, North Carolina. These groups did an amazing job helping with many aspects of our ministry! In July we are looking forward to having a group of youth from the Southern conference of the Church of the Brethren. (Volunteers are always welcome AND appreciated!)
Here at The Lord’s Harvest, we continue to provide potatoes, cornmeal and onions to 1,750 families in Madison and surrounding counties. Due to our giving being down in the last couple of months, we made the decision to only provide pinto beans and rice to those who also receive staple food boxes. We feel this is the best stewardship of the monies which we are blessed with each month. We still provide staple food boxes to 450 families. We help those who do not have a food pantry in their community by working through local churches. The churches are able to help us identify people in their communities who are vulnerable and need food assistance; especially senior adults and children who are home for the summer without access to food.
Here in Madison County, 37% of children are “food insecure”. This means that 1 in every 2.7 children go to bed without at leastone meal every day! The food you are helping to provide through your donations and prayers means that these children do not have to go to bed hungry every day. It also means that senior adults and veterans are being provided healthy, nutritious food on a monthly basis, which helps them to be able to spread their meager social security checks further so that they can stay in their homes and purchase medicine. Food is the first thing illuminated when you have to make a decision about whether you will be able to pay your utility bill or purchase food. Medicine and food are considered non-essential for the poorest of the poor. 85% of those we help are children, senior adults or veterans. The remaining 15% are working age adults, often referred to as the underemployed who are working for low paying, minimum wage jobs who often have to drive into Asheville because there are not many jobs available in Madison County. These people WANT to work, they WANT to provide for the families – they just don’t make enough money to make ends meet. The staple food boxes provide a stop gap measure from paycheck to paycheck.
So why do we do what we do? It is simple. In Matthew 25:34-40, Jesus asked us to help to provide for those who are hungry or thirsty; those who are struggling to make ends meet; those who have little hope of changing their circumstances and those who are sick. He said whenever you have helped one of those who are in these circumstances, you have done what is pleasing in His sight. Even with a more limited budget, we want to continue to provide food to those who are hungry and hope to those who have a hard time seeing any light or hope in their lives. We are all called to be light and hope to a world that is in darkness.
During 2019, we are excitedly visioning about the future of this ministry. We are currently awaiting notification about our 501©3 status. We also are praying about sustaining and expanding this ministry for the foreseeable future. We are thankful for God’s provision of vision!! What we do is only possible because of those who share of their resources and offer their prayers and volunteer hours!
How we appreciate your prayers and financial support of The Lord’s Harvest. You are helping us provide these things in abundantly wonderful, compassionate ways! How thankful we are for you!
How can you become involved?
· Our website gives you an opportunity to give ONLINE! We invite you to take a look at www.lordsharvestforthehungry.org. Please prayerfully consider making an online donation!
· The Lord’s Harvestis also proud to be a United Way partner. If you would like to make a contribution to the United Way of Madison County, you can designate The Lord’s Harvest as a recipient.
· And we can always receive donations through the mail at The Lord’s Harvest, 911 Bailey St, Mars Hill, NC. 28754.
· Volunteers are also always welcome and appreciated as are your prayers, love and support.
How thankful we are for each and every one of YOU! As we continue to minister together, we would ask for your continued prayers and we thank those who share of your resources, once or again and again, to bless the “least of these” here in Madison County and beyond. May God continue to bless each of you in wonderful and mighty ways.
Bill and Sharon Welsch
Dearest Friends and Family,
Thanksgiving Day has come and gone and we are now on the roller coaster ride toward Christmas. We would be remiss not to stop and share a huge word of thanks for ALL those who have given to support The Lord’s Harvest in 2018. We are blessed to have a few folks who give on a monthly basis as well as those who give every once in a while and those who give one time only. Whatever the gift, no matter how large or small, it is very much appreciated and we are truly, humbly thankful for your support, love and prayers!
Bill received word from his recent biopsy that he is CANCER FREE! While he will continue with maintenance treatments for the next three years with an occasional biopsy and cystoscopy, we could not be more excited and want to thank you so much for your prayers and love and support. This means that Bill can continue the work we are doing through The Lord’s Harvest!
We are currently helping1,400 families through twenty agencies/ministries with food relief. We continue the new work Bill has begun with seven churches in the French Broad Association. We are delighted to be partnering with Bethel Baptist Church, Bull Creek Baptist Church, Flat Creek Baptist Church, Forks of Ivy Missionary Baptist Church, Grapevine Baptist Church, Laurel Branch Baptist Church and Middlefork Baptist Church. These churches are working in their communities to help those who are hungry. Because they know the people in their community, they are able to help us get food to even more people in Madison County.
We also continue our work with Barnardsville Community Center, Beacon of Hope, Bright Hope Laurel United Methodist Church (Ebbs Chapel), Colvin Creek Church in Spillcorn, FARM (Feeding Aging Residents of Madison - part of the Madison County Senior feeding program), Flats Missionary Baptist Church in Spring Creek, Hot Springs Salvation Army Point, Ivy Ridge Housing Authority (Mars Hill), Keystone Federal Housing (Johnson City, TN), Kids for Christ (an after school program), Neighbors in Need, Spring Creek Nutritional Site, Spring Creek United Methodist Church. How thankful we are for the relationships we have formed through all these partnerships.
The Lord’s Harvest’s focus is mainly Senior Adults and children (86%) with the remainder being underemployed adults who work for minimum wage often driving two hours to and from work each day. The medium income in Madison County is $22,000; which is below average for the state of North Carolina while the cost of living here is one of the highest not only in the state but in the United States! The beauty of living in the surrounding mountains commands a high cost of living. Senior Adults, who have lived here all their lives, must often choose between paying utilities and for housing or for medicine, medical care and food; you can imagine which items are most often cut. Children have no choice about who their parents are but 37% of these children go to bed hungry each night. Thank goodness for school breakfasts and lunches but what happens when school will be closed over winter break in only a few weeks? These are places where The Lord’s Harvest can step in and help! We also have a larger percentage of veterans than the national average living in Madison County and over half of them live in poverty. The Lord’s Harvest helps these men and women who have given sacrificially for our country’s freedom! When you give financially to support The Lord’s Harvest, these are the people to whom your gift has a direct impact! 100% of monetary donations go directly to hunger relief. We have no paid staff; Bill nor Sharon receive a salary.
While it seems that Thanksgiving has become more of a marketing promotion for commercialism than a holiday to actually celebrate the gift of giving thanks for all the blessings which we have received; Bill and Sharon give thanks for friends and family. Bill’s recent good news from his biopsy report gives us even more for which to be thankful. AND we are thankful for YOU!
Perhaps you have already done your Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Local Sunday shopping. Maybe you are awaiting the deals on Cyber Monday, but we ask you to consider making a financial contribution to The Lord’s Harvest on Giving Tuesday this coming Tuesday, November 27.
It is ONLY because of continued monetary gifts that this ministry is a reality! We are so thankful to those of you who give on a regular basis. Your continued generous support allows us to sustain this ministry on a monthly basis. We could NOT do all we do without your faithful giving! We are thankful for those who give on a one-time basis, too; no gift is too small and goes directly to hunger relief! And as always, we are so thankful for our praying friends and family without whose faithful prayer support The Lord’s Harvest would not exist. Please do pray for us!
As always, we welcome your support! The Lord's Harvest is strictly a volunteer operation with Bill doing about 80% of the work! Won't you consider giving to help “the least of these.” Volunteers are welcome and donations are needed and appreciated! If you would like to make a monetary donation to the Lord’s Harvest, please send your check to:
The Lord’s Harvest
911 Bailey Street
Mars Hill, NC 28754
or you can visit our website (www.lordsharvestforthehungry.org) and click on the “donate” button. Thank you! We truly do give thanks for you. May God bless you!
Bill and Sharon Welsch
The hands of Jesus in the heart of the Blue Ridge
This year we have been blessed by the Mars Hill University Baseball Team who has provided support by helping us unload orders from MANNA foodbank and helping us load our deliveries to the various areas in Madison County. Go Lions!
February 10, 2018
Dearest Friends and Family,
We are sending our wishes for a Happy New Year and Happy Valentine’s Day all rolled into one as we kick off our first 2018 newsletter – soooo sorry for the delay – we have been busy little folks around here! The first three weeks of January , it was just Bill and Sharon doing the work for The Lord’s Harvest since our students were on Christmas break. Fortunately they have returned and we are thankful! We are blessed by students from Mars Hill University who are a part of the Bonner Scholarship Program and by the young men who are part of the Mars Hill Baseball team under the coaching leadership of Aaron Rembert! These students are a wonderful help to us and we are very blessed by them! We are also very thankful for several individuals from Mars Hill Baptist Church who share their time to help us load food boxes for delivery. Without the help we receive from many individuals, we could not provide the hunger relief we do!
Unbelievably, we are beginning our eighth year of helping those who are hungry in Madison and surrounding counties.
Statistically speaking: The Lord’s Harvest helps:
1,594 families with potatoes, pinto beans, white rice, stone-ground cornmeal and grits.
We provide these items to 12 different food pantries in Madison County, Buncombe County, Yancy County, Unicoi County, Tennessee and Washington County, Tennessee.
We also provide food boxes to 250 families throughout Madison County in locations where there is no food pantry.
Many of the people we serve are veterans; almost half are senior adults. 41% of the families we serve have children in the home; 33% of the children in this county go to bed hungry every night; some of them never know if or when another meal may be available. School breakfasts and lunches are their only sure source of food. Approximately 5,500 individuals receive food from The Lord’s Harvest.
We have lost part of our funding due to the death of dear friends, Drs Robert and Rachel Chapman in 2017. They provided generous financial support from our meager beginnings. This loss has caused us to take a step back and to begin to evaluate how much we can help those whom we are serving. We will be asking our partner agencies to help us evaluate what three items their clients like best: potatoes, pinto beans, rice, cornmeal or grits. We may transition to providing only the top three items to the sites we serve.
As always we welcome your support! Donations to the Lord’s Harvest may be sent to:
The Lord’s Harvest
911 Bailey Street
Mars Hill, NC 28754
or you can visit our website (www.lordsharvestforthehungry.org) and click on the “donate” button. Please know that 100% of your donation goes directly back into our ministry!
We are so thankful to those of you who give on a regular basis as well. Your continued generous support allows us to sustain this ministry on a monthly basis. We could NOT do all we do without your faithful giving! We are also thankful for those who give on a one-time basis; no gift is too small and goes directly to hunger relief! And as always, we are so thankful for our praying friends and family without whose faithful prayer support The Lord’s Harvest would not exist. Please do pray for us! May God bless you!
Bill and Sharon Welsch
The hands of Jesus in the heart of the Blue Ridge.
WHY IS THERE HUNGER IN MADISON COUNTY?
Recently we received a newsletter from one of our partner agencies that described in a nutshell the reasons for hunger in Madison County. Please allow us to share an excerpt:
[The Lord's Harvest] serves the working poor, the underemployed struggling to find full-time work, impoverished seniors, veterans, disabled adults, and children. 85% of the people we serve are senior adults, veterans, disabled adults, or children. Although we hear the "economy is turning around" it is not turning around for these folks. We sometimes hear "Those people just need to get a job!" The working poor have jobs; they simply do not make enough to live on. There are very few jobs in Madison County and many people have to drive to neighboring counties to find employment which means more money for fuel and additional child care costs.
Here is an example of the financial challenge facing the working poor in Western North Carolina. . .
Living expenses for a family of four in Madison County requires a monthly income of approximately $4,350. To attain this level of income, one adult working full time would need to earn $27 an hour, or two working adults would need to make a combined income of $27 an hour. We could argue that the state average is too high for Madison County, so for the sake of this example, let's assume living in Madison County is less costly than the state average and reduce it by 15% to $3,697 a month. The monthly income for two parents working full time and making slightly over minimum wage, ($10/per /person) is $3,466 a month. This results in a monthly shortfall of $231. The fear of becoming homeless drives them to make sure all housing cots are paid first. Common strategies to get by include; skipping meals, buying the least expensive (no nutritional value) food, as well as accessing county supportive services.
Recently a new and sobering statistic was released showing that OVER 30% of the children in Madison County are living in poverty and are referred to as "food insecure" (which is a nice way of saying they have no idea where their next meal will come from). A staggering number of children are homeless in our area. The support strategies for the working poor are failing. Families must choose to move into a shelter, live temporarily with friends or relatives, or resort to living in their cars. Children growing up facing daily fear of hunger and homelessness are not afforded the same opportunities as other children. These children are robbed of their childhoods, and carry "adult worries" at an early age.
While only 15% of those we serve are adults, the above synopsis may help you understand why we do what we do to help the "least of these" in our community, county, and the surrounding area. If you would like to become involved by donating or by volunteering, Bill and Sharon would welcome your help! You may donate on-line through this website or you can mail a check to: "The Lord's Harvest" c/o Bill Welsch, 911 Bailey Street, Mars Hill, NC28754. 100% of your donation goes to helping those who are hungry. Your gift is tax deductible!
Bill was interviewed about The Lord's Harvest on a radio station in Johnson City, Tennessee. What an amazing opportunity for us to share our story about the work we are doing in Madison County! Listen to the interview here!
The Lord’s Harvest received a $1,500 grant from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina’s Wealth and Poverty Committee in December.The Lord's Harvest also received a $1,000 Bonner Scholar grant from Mars Hill University in March2016! We are humbly grateful for these organizations and their partnership with us as we help fight poverty in Madison County.
I hope this finds all of you doing well and safe wherever you may be. Sharon and I wanted to send a short update because there has been some significant changes for us in the last couple of weeks. Before I tell you the latest we want to thank you for your support. We can’t tell you enough what your support means to these people and how it has made so many changes in people’s lives that otherwise don’t have much hope in this life. I try not to look at people in ways that influence me as to who deserves help and who doesn’t, but the fact that we are really starting to reach senior citizens has really given me hope and that we are making a difference. I am thankful that God has helped us break the barrier in communities that allows us to help those who are retired and in a lot of cases shut-ins. I thank God thru our efforts that now the county government has come to us and finally realizes that they cannot run a Food Support Program and that only Faith Based Organizations need to be in this business.