MIAMI — The Miami Good Neighbor Project is doing just that, being a good neighbor.

A grassroots project, it’s collecting a wide variety of items that are being distributed to those in need around Ottawa County because of hardships caused by COVID-19.

“I was sitting there one night and you hear everything on the news about what was happening and what was coming,” said Bless Parker, one of the group’s organizers. “Of course it was hitting other places first, and you could see the affect it was having there. I thought ‘man, if that gets here, the effect will be devastating’ because we have so many people that live paycheck-to-paycheck and are barely getting by anyway.”

“I thought we are going to have to find a way to feed these people.”

He said the area schools are doing a great job of providing lunches for students, but others are in need.

A core group of Parker, Cori Stotts, Rick Aldridge, Steve Chasteen and Michael Hart got the ball rolling and its snowballed from there.

“We probably named it wrong right off the start,” Parker joked. “It’s named Miami Good Neighbor Project, but that doesn’t mean if you live in Commerce we won’t help you. You are still our neighbor.

“We’ve actually helped some people in Grove. When it comes to something like this, we are going to help them. We’ve helped people in Quapaw, Fairland, Peoria, Wyandotte, Commerce, Miami — we’ve had some from Welch call. If we can get it to you, we’re going to get it to you.”

Because of the immense need, Parker said the organization is running low on canned goods and non-perishables.

Among the food items needed are eggs, bread, lunch meats, rice, cereal, Pop Tarts, ramen, cake mix/frosting, Hamburger Helper, oatmeal, canned fruit, milk, shelf milk, pancake mix, syrup, soup, Spaghetti O's, ravioli, snacks, applesauce, butter, cheese, tuna, cornbread mix, instant potatoes and meat (beef, fish, pork and deer).

Miami Good Neighbor was able to secure a donation of 4,420 pounds of chicken from Tyson Foods.

“That’s been a huge, huge help,” Parker said. “I definitely want to give glory to the Man upstairs for this one. Without God’s help, we couldn’t have gotten this done like we have.”

He said another person has donated a cow, and it’s being processed by the Quapaw Tribe at its plant.

Cook’s Processing also had donated 100 pounds of deer meat.

“To me, this is what ‘community’ is all about,” Parker said. “Miami has always been a giving community, they have always gotten behind each other. This is one time where it’s going to have to be in a big, big way because if this thing rocks on for another three weeks to a month, people are going to be in trouble.”

The program already has assisted 286 families and 1,153 individuals as of Saturday night, Parker said.

“We’re way ahead of the curve; we’ve contacted Feed The Children. We’ve contacted the Tulsa Food Bank. So we’re ahead of everybody else, which is good, because we can get shipments before everybody else. If we had waited, no telling where we would have been.”

For additional information on the Miami Good Neighbor Project, call Parker at 918-541-8839 or Aldridge at 918-541-6056.

Donations can be sent via PayPal to werpar5@swbell.net.

Checks can be made out to OKERT and sent to 815 Scott Lane, Miami, OK 74354.