BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
The Oak Harbor Alliance Chapel has always been there for the community. Now is especially a time of great need in and around the area, as well as in Ohio, as the nation undergoes difficult economic times with an unemployment rate approaching 17%.
The pantry’s variety of foods are available to anyone who is need of some help.
“The food pantry is open to anyone in any location, no questions asked,” said Cynthia Roepke, who oversees the food pantry’s operations. “There are so many times when people who are a long distance away call me to see if they’re eligible for food from our pantry. They’ve heard about our pantry, and have been told that it’s a good source for food.
“Ottawa County has had quite a high unemployment rate compared to the rest of the country for the last few years. I’ve had many, many calls for the past two months from people that I’ve never heard from before.”
The pantry, located at 11805 State Route 105 on the west side of Oak Harbor, has received a monthly supply of items from the SeaGate Food Bank in Toledo for the last seven years, and local residents have been giving as well.
“We do get a lot of donations from the community. The community has been extremely generous,” said Roepke. “The post office workers have had a day where they collect food. It’s an enormous amount of food, and it provides variety. Community donations give us a little more interesting supply.
“We have fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, bread and basic pantry staples that include canned goods, beans, rice and cereal. Whatever the need is, we just want to make sure we’re taking care of the people.
The verse in the Bible that Roepke believes illustrates what the pantry represents can be found in Matthew 25:35. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.
“The Lord basically says, whenever you give out food, it’s like you’re giving it to me,” Roepke said. “That’s the verse we hang on. We are greatly blessed.”
Because of the coronavirus, customers are not allowed to enter the pantry for the foreseeable future.
“When someone calls our number, which is 419-343-0126, I take down their name and household information, including their phone number, and how many people are in the household,” said Roepke. “We then select items to put into a shopping cart, which I put it in the parking lot, and tell them the time to be here.
“You bring your own grocery bags, and are encouraged to take anything out of the shopping cart that you want. I’m trying to make it so people have a choice. A lot of the people that are coming I’ve met in the past, so I somewhat know their preferences.
“The last time we had a person in the pantry was in February. Since March, we’ve been doing it by appointment, and we do not let anyone come into the church. We plan to run through the summer like this and really don’t know right now when this will change.”