SBJ photo by McKenzie Robinson

2020 Most Influential Women: Lisa Farmer

Harmony House

Posted online

When Lisa Farmer took over as executive director of Harmony House, the nonprofit was in the red, lacked fundraising events and had almost no donor base. But a lot can happen in six years.

Today, Harmony House operates in the black with a six-month operating reserve and fundraising initiatives that raise more than $900,000 annually.

“Being able to improve access to shelter and support services for domestic violence survivors and achieving stability for Harmony House so it can serve the community for years to come is one of the highlights of my career,” Farmer says.

She’s not a stranger to nonprofit work or being the first to create or try something new.

Early in her career, United Way of the Ozarks hired Farmer as homeless services coordinator, a position created as a joint endeavor with the city of Springfield, and she developed the city’s first transitional housing program with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

As area director for the American Cancer Society, Farmer ran across the 24-Hour Run, a fundraiser in Seattle, Washington. She thought it was a good idea to try it in Springfield, giving the Queen City the distinction of being the first Missouri locale to hold what’s now called Relay for Life.

More recently, Farmer was on hand when Talia Apartments opened in west central Springfield two years ago. Developed in partnership with The Vecino Group, it’s the first supportive housing project in Missouri with units dedicated to domestic violence survivors.

“The lack of safe, affordable housing is the biggest barrier to domestic violence survivors being able to successfully leave their abuser for good,” Farmer says.

“Through this partnership … [there are] 18 safe, affordable permanent housing units for domestic violence survivors.”

During her tenure, Harmony House has instituted operating and personnel policies, continuing education, professional training and improved compensation and benefits.

“Harmony House is one of the top-of-mind nonprofits in Springfield and is a sought-after place to work for those in social services,” Farmer says.

She’s especially proud of the capital campaign that allowed Harmony House to expand into a larger building. When Farmer started her job, the campaign was essentially stalled.

After reassessing and restarting, $6.1 million was raised to fully fund the purchase and renovation of the new shelter near Battlefield Road and U.S. Highway 65. It opened in 2017.

“I’m very proud of the fact that Harmony House increased shelter capacity from sheltering about 90 people per night to now sheltering on average about 135 people per night,” she says. “We’ve added on-site basic medical services, on-site counseling, two family case managers, more children’s programming, on-site civil legal services and so much more.”

Farmer is a founding board member of the Child Advocacy Center and the Greene County Family Justice Center, and she chaired the city’s Sexual Assault Task Force in 2019.