Nobody goes hungry if Gregory Dewbrew has anything to do with it. Not in Mansfield. Not anywhere in North Texas.
The president of Harvest International takes his role seriously, knowing that the food from his warehouse keeps cupboards and refrigerators stocked in local homes and at other food banks across the region.
The majority of the clients who come to Harvest International seeking help are seniors living on a fixed income or the working poor.
And there’s plenty of need even a decade after the recession.
"I see the need steadily increasing. Sometimes there’s not enough dollars in the month to get through," Dewbrew said. "Most of the people who come to us don’t want to be here. We try to make it as pleasant as we can. There’s a lot of people who get jobs who come to get food because they don’t have enough money."
This hits home for Dewbrew, who grew up in a single-family household with four other siblings. He jokes that his mom "invented Hamburger Helper" as she tried to make meals stretch to feed the family.
Everyone is welcome at the food bank he helped create.
The clients come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays for their monthly food allotment. It varies from week to week depending on what kinds of donations the food bank has received.
The 501c3 actually started in 1987 as White Harvesting Ministries in El Paso. At the same time, Dewbrew left his job with the city of Arlington to work with the Living Word Ministry. In 1999, the organizations merged, changed its name to One Harvest Ministries and moved to Mansfield. In 2001, the name changed to Harvest International and Dewbrew became president.
It’s not a glamorous job and Dewbrew admits it doesn’t pay much. On a typical day, he’s driving a box truck to places like Flower Mound or Mesquite to pick up donated food from distribution warehouses, restaurants or grocery stores. He’s got a handful of staff and an army of 40 to 50 volunteers making sure everything runs smoothly.
What keeps him going are the amazing success stories.
One young man was doing community service at Harvest International because he got in trouble with the law. Meeting Dewbrew, who is also a pastor, prompted him to change his lifestyle. Now, the two are friends.
"He got a lot more out of it than just doing his hours," Dewbrew said. "There’s a lot of people who come back in and thank us for being here."
Another elderly woman came in struggling to make ends meet so the volunteers had her bring in all her bills to see where she could cut expenses. They found she was paying car insurance on three grandchildren.
"A lot of time people don’t put it down and look at it," Dewbrew said. "She weaned them off and she still gets food but this helped her quite a bit."
Common Ground’s summer Feed the Kids program is also supported by Harvest International. The program makes sure children don’t go hungry over the summer or on the weekends during the school year.
Applying for help is easy and painless. They ask a few questions initially and the applicant gets assessed for their needs. They get their first basket of food and, the second time, they schedule a more thorough interview to see what kind of other assistance the person needs.
It’s a low stress process that’s not meant to be intimidating.
Karen Stinson’s smiling face is one of the first they see when they step in the front door. She started working in the warehouse after she retired from Kroger seven years ago.
"I knew I was fixing to retire and I didn’t want to just sit at home with nothing to do," she said. "I love everything. I help a lot of people. I sit and pray with them and try to help them out."
She transferred from the warehouse to the front office a few years ago to get a change of pace and a better understanding of the whole operation.
Walk-in clients come from as far as Saginaw, Waxahachie and Ennis where there are other resources available.
"They can find other pantries but they don’t give out as much as we do. I hear that all the time," Stinson said.
Demand for their services is so high, Harvest International established a satellite location in Cleburne to help people there. That location gives out food on the third Thursday of every month.
Dewbrew is also encouraged by the way people give back to him when he needs it. When they needed a larger space, they found it on Sixth Street just south of East Broad Street. And most of the labor to build it was donated. When their coolers and freezers were failing, a Haltom City company stepped up to donate walk-in units. He prayed for a community garden and now he’s got one in back with a full aquaponic watering system. That’s in large part thanks to the Rotary Club and Mansfield Cares.
He’s even got a beehive going so he can provide homemade honey to clients.
Corporations like Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s Pizza, QuikTrip and Starbucks all donate leftover food.
After 16 years of running Harvest International, Dewbrew has no intention of slowing down. But he also knows how important this work is for the people who count on him.
"It’s my business, my baby," Dewbrew said. "I want this place to keep running even after I’m gone."