Amber Wood Sellars ’08 makes an impact with Harvesting Hope
March 15, 2012 By Mariah Pohl ’15
of a doubt” that she wanted to help people, and as executive
director of both Harvesting Hope Food Pantry and Soup
Kitchen as well as The Hand Up Group, she is doing just that.
While most students at Centre are just beginning to figure out their lives, Amber Wood Sellars ’08 proved to be an exception.
From early on she knew “beyond a shadow of a doubt” her calling was to work in the “helping field” after graduation. During college, she aspired to be a child and family clinical psychologist, and in pursuit of her dreams, went on to earn her master’s degree at Xavier University and was just a few short years from earning her Ph.D. However, her plans drastically changed when “God called [her] to do something else: Harvesting Hope.”
While Sellars had gained significant experience working as a drug and family counselor—doing psychological testing on children and adolescents and teaching undergraduate psychology courses—she did not find complete fulfillment in her work.
“With teaching, I was able to see a gradual change in students' understanding of the field of psychology. I was given the privilege of watching them learn and be excited and fascinated,” she says. “I really enjoyed it, but it wasn't the kind of life-changing work I felt I was meant to do.”
Sellars explains how her decision to pursue a field of work that “made an immediate impact” got started. “I'd always grown up serving others and I just wanted to fall back on that,” she says.
When community officials expressed the need for a food pantry and a director, she “hopped on board. It was divine timing,” she recalls. “It was exactly what I was looking for, and I'm loving every minute of it.”
By joining Harvesting for Hope in December of 2010, Sellars was able to focus on what she enjoyed most: taking care of others.
“I am a Christian and I've grown up knowing that feeding, clothing, housing, listening, sharing and loving are what my life is supposed to be about, and now I've made a career of it,” Sellars says. “ It's amazing to see an immediate change in someone's life due to someone else reaching out to them and helping them meet their basic needs.”
Despite not directly using her degree in her new field of work, she continues to “keep it in [her] back pocket.”
“I honestly get a thrill working with people through difficult relationships and life experiences,” she says. “That just gets my mental juices flowing.”
Sellars describes her daily work at the food pantry as being “hectic, crazy, and always full of surprises, but also a blast.” As executive director for both Harvesting Hope Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen as well as The Hand Up Group, her job entails not only feeding the 20 percent of people in Boyle County living under the poverty line, but also housing the homeless in a transitional living facility that helps them get back on their feet.
“We provide them with food and shelter while helping them find a job and get back to a place of financial stability,” she says. “On any given day, I am running around picking up food someone has donated to us, unloading trucks of food, picking up bedding and other housing materials for families all over town in need, talking to any given number of people on the phone, fundraising, paying our bills, keeping lines of communication open with donors, picking up supplies, getting to know the people we're helping, going to meeting in the community, networking with community members and businesses, and just enjoying the company of everyone around me who is also doing this work.”
When contemplating the future of the center, Sellars shares her hope of someday reaching 100 percent of those in need of food assistance every month through the efforts of the food pantry and soup kitchen.
“I pray that, through what we are doing, we will start to see the numbers of those who are at risk for hunger decrease,” she says. “I'd also like for Harvesting Hope to become healthier financially through the joint efforts of community members and businesses.”
Additionally, Sellars has set a goal to eventually replicate the pantry in other counties across Kentucky that need them—“once Harvesting Hope here in Boyle County is running like a well-oiled machine.”
Reflecting on the path that she has taken in life, Sellars shares a piece of valuable advice: “If you want to have a career that you love and one that makes a direct, immediate, life-changing impact on the community, pursue it. Get out there, make your life about something you believe in and make a difference.”
Following this advice, Sellars has been able to find the fulfillment and happiness in life that she had been looking for.
“I get to watch hurt, scared, desperate people walk through our doors not expecting kindness or much help of any kind, and then after being treated like they deserve to be treated, after eating a good meal, sharing a kind conversation with a compassionate volunteer or staff member, getting their groceries for the month, experiencing unconditional love and receiving the help they really need, they walk out of our doors with a smile on their face and hope,” she says. “Being able to bring hope to someone who feels hopeless is an indescribable feeling.”
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