Our History

In the beginning ... Harvest House began very modestly; Rivergate Church leadership had a vision for a mercy ministry to the surrounding community in conjunction with the church’s move into its new facility (the old Wal-Mart building) near 71st and Riverside Drive in 1996. Virginia Runnels contributed her experience with another Tulsa agency providing similar services to launch this fledgling agency.

Launched . . In 1997 Harvest House was off to a positive start, its one volunteer with a folding table and chair were set up in a children’s Sunday school room with a wastebasket but no phone. A few cans of food and odds and ends of clothing were in a pantry down the hall. Numbers of clients and resources were initially very small; word of mouth began to bring in clients. Harvest House growth has been organic, and has always been driven by the demand for services as numbers of clients increased and donations of food and clothing kept pace.

The growth years ... The number of volunteers has grown from just the one, and seems to always expand to meet the need as more clients come in. Rivergate increased funding and finding more space as clothing and food supplies grew, moving from one place to another within the building. With more financial resources, services were expanded. Systemic growth was driven by demand and resources stretched to accommodate the needs as more clients learned about this quality service agency and its caring volunteers.

Guiding principles Harvest House Director Virginia Runnels established very early the guiding principle that became the cornerstone of the Harvest House operation: the dignity of the individual. Services have always been delivered in a manner designed to affirm dignity and convey a sense of value and worth to the individuals being served. That was true on day one and is still a driving motivation of the Harvest House volunteers today.

Transitions ... In 2003 RiverGate Church allocated a 6,000 sq. ft. space in the unused portion of its building and many office furnishings to be used by Harvest House. Virginia Runnels retired from her position as Harvest House Director in 2005 but continued her involvement as a board member until her untimely passing in October, 2014; the current Executive Director, Marlene Cunningham, was named her successor by the Board in 2005."

Partnering with the community ... The economic recession of 2008 made it clear that the need for our services was about to experience rapid growth. Since these economic realities also impacted the church membership, it became clear that it was time to partner with the Tulsa community for additional support to meet the growing needs. Consequently, work was done to make Harvest House ‘grants eligible’ and communication was established with the remarkable foundation community in the Tulsa area. Expansion of our services has been made made possible by the generous support of several local foundations and many committed individuals and local churches.