Dallas Morning News Spotlight
Nov 23 10:22 AM

Dallas Morning News Spotlight

Nov 23 10:22 AM
Nov 23 10:22 AM
 
Harmony Community Development Corp.
 
Clearinghouse takes a holistic approach to help people achieve self-sufficiency

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, Harmony began as a food pantry at Concord Church in Red Bird. It has grown into a clearinghouse of coordinated services including rent assistance, legal aid, financial planning, and counseling. It is housed in an office building in the Red Bird area of southern Dallas, where 18 full-time employees and dozens of volunteers help people in need move toward wholeness.

In fact, the word “wholeness” is on the lips of every person we talked to at Harmony.

“We’re trying to look at a person holistically, and help them find wholeness by resourcing them in key areas,” said board chairman Bryan Carter, who is also the senior pastor at the 8,000-member Concord.

“We’ve discovered that if we provide these services, it can help people to continue to make the journey so they can be self-sufficient. It’s all tied together.”

Executive Director Mark Porter described Harmony’s intake process, which involves a detailed questionnaire and produces a “self-sufficiency matrix.” Volunteer coaches help clients develop a customized plan for reaching self-sufficiency. That plan may involve a job fair, temporary rental assistance, therapy, or other services, all of which happen on Harmony’s campus.

“It becomes a one-stop-shop for supportive and wraparound services,” Porter said. “We try to bring everything to bear right here in our own backyard.”

We asked if it ever feels like they’ve bitten off too much.

“It can be a bit overwhelming at times,” Carter said. “But we feel like this approach can serve the person more fully.”

Carter pointed out that Harmony partners with other organizations, including several other churches, United Way, the city of Dallas, Momentus Health Services, Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, and the North Texas Food Bank.

So far this year, Harmony has helped 10,920 people with food, provided $2 million in rental assistance to 670 families, graduated 24 people from a financial empowerment course, and helped 17 people find employment and four others earn raises. One of the most important and timely metrics is this: Harmony’s four licensed professional counselors have served 1,564 clients this year, a 19% increase over last year. Porter said that increase is driven by the stresses of a pandemic, but also by a younger generation of clients who are less stoic about mental health needs.

Harmony’s mission statement is not just about helping individuals or families but transforming entire communities.

“Instead of thinking about giving them a fish or teaching them to fish, we want to teach them how to own the pond,” Porter said. “How do we give them the resources and pathways to get to wealth building, homeownership, owning their own business. It’s a long journey. It’s long and dirty.”

This Thanksgiving, there are hundreds of people in our city who have a job, a raise, a home, or a Thanksgiving dinner because Porter, Carter, and their colleagues are willing to go on that long and dirty journey. That’s something to be thankful for.

Editor’s note: Every year, The Dallas Morning News Charities supports an important group of North Texas nonprofits devoted to helping the hungry and homeless among us. As we begin the holiday season of giving, the editorial board is highlighting the work of a few of these organizations. We hope that you will join us in helping lift those who are lifting others. 

Please visit www.dmncharities.com.

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