Story and Photos by Rochelle Dunbar.
It is a passage from Jeremiah, an Old Testament book of the Bible, that forms the basis of Ian Harber’s philosophy on community service. It is the cornerstone of which guides him in life and propelled him to join the mission of Serve Denton. “In Jeremiah chapter 29, it talks about the Israelites and how they were in exile in a foreign country and they won’t come back for a long time, and [God] basically just says settle down, live your lives here in exile, and seek the well being of the city. When it flourishes, you will flourish.”
Ian, born in Dallas, grew up in a broken family without the support of his parents. But as a toddler his grandparents stepped in to provide a safe family home. Experiencing their hospitality and parental care, filled Ian with gratitude and stirred up a passion to give back to his community.
While working toward his undergraduate degree, Ian found out about Serve Denton. “Five years ago, when I was living in Dallas, I heard about Serve Denton and all I thought was, ‘I want to be a part of that.’” He then reached out to a friend who worked for Serve Denton to see how he could get involved. The team told Ian they would keep him in mind for future job opportunities, and only a year later Ian was offered the role of Communications Coordinator.
Serve Denton is a nonprofit center that houses sixteen organizations. Some of those nonprofits including the Children’s Advocacy Center, Youth and Family Counseling, Zoie’s Place, and Recovery Resource Council. Serve Denton helps nonprofits grow their capacity and cut down on overhead expenses like workrooms, electricity, printers, and wifi, so that they can use funding to directly help people. Ian refers to Serve Denton as a “Mall of Humanity,” a name that rings true as Serve Denton is the second biggest nonprofit center in Texas to offer on-site services.
“I love being able to make ideas and concepts, and it just hit me while I was in Dallas that I don’t want to be in marketing products all day long.” Ian says reminiscing. “I would like to be selling something that benefits people.” Ian is content that he is able to use his skills at an organization that is doing good for the community. “I love knowing that three doors down someone is seeing the doctor, that kids who have been abused are seeking justice and starting this year, people will be finding food who are in need and counseling here. I’m surrounded by things I believe in.”
Ian firmly believes in staying in one place to help instead of constantly searching for the next best thing. “I would rather plant roots in one place that I care about, for decades. And do my work in one place and see that city flourish, because I am promised that if that city flourishes so will I flourish. And that’s what I think we are called to do, we are called to seek the well being of where we are at.” This belief inspires him to keep making a difference in Denton.
Ian is currently pursuing his Masters of Divinity. His future aspiration is to plant a local church and continue his work at Serve Denton. “We try to place meaning into everything that is not supposed to bring meaning to our life, it’s supposed to bring joy to our lives and those are different. When we place our meaning in God then everything finds meaning.” Through practical and spiritual care, Ian has focused his long-term goals on helping his city, and the people who call it home, to thrive.
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