The Ottawa County Ministerial Alliance tries to help people with basic needs, including food.

Currently, the alliance sponsors a food pantry at 316 Eastgate Blvd in Miami.

“I believe it started more than 15 years ago at All Saints' Episcopal Church,” said DeAnn Mattingly, director of program. “We found that several of the churches were duplicating the service and that's when it became centralized under the sponsorship of the alliance.”

The need for the food pantry's services keeps rising, according to Mattingly.

So far this year, the food pantry has provided food for 139 clients.

In 2000, the pantry program provided food for 319 clients. In 2004, 390 clients were served.

Mattingly said the actual number of people helped is likely greater because clients get food for their whole family.

“Depending on what food we have on hand, we're only to give enough food to last for two or three days,” Mattingly said.

The food at the food pantry is mainly canned goods and other staples. It doesn't have the facilities to store meat and dairy products.

The food pantry is different from other organizations in the area that provide food in that the food bank only gets food by donation.

“I never know, for sure, what we'll be able to give out because I don't know ahead of time what we'll have on hand,” Mattingly said.

She is grateful for recently receiving a large donation of a variety of foods from the local exercise organization “Curves.”

“Curves' manager Connie Turner just called one day and asked if we'd like what they had collected for us,” Mattingly said. “I hadn't heard anything about it and was really pleased.”

Several area churches have regular collections and the public was asked to bring a food donation to the Holy Week services sponsored by the Ministerial Alliance.

“Sometimes, the food gets pretty thin around here,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly, who has supervised the food pantry for many years, has seen both the good and the bad.

“There's been some people down on their luck I wished I could do more for and then there's been ‘others,'” Mattingly said. “More than 80 percent of the people have really needed help.”

Those who need assistance or would like to make a donation can visit the food pantry from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is located 316 Eastgate Blvd. in Miami.

The Ottawa County Ministerial Alliance is a member of the United Way.