With the very challenging economy in recent years, area churches throughout the area have stepped up to the plate to help those in need by providing monthly dinners or having food pantries.
The Howland Community Church added to the number recently by starting a "Client Choice Pantry," which is set up like a small grocery store. Church pastor Brian Byrne said the pantry is unique in that it is based on family size and income.
The pantry is open two times a month, with those whose last name begins with the letters A to L coming one week on a Friday and those with last names M to Z coming the other week. Byrne said the church averages 64 to 70 families each month.
Byrne said Second Harvest Food Bank provides items, such as frozen meats, milk, eggs and bread, as it does to many food pantries throughout the tri-county area.
The food pantry recently was able to be very well stocked as students from the Lakeview and Howland schools collected food items as part of Day of Service held in November.
Katy Fessler, who coordinators dinners for the Howland church, said students helped fill a half a bus full of nonperishables and raised $5,400. In addition to $2,700 going to the Howland church, $2,700 was also presented to the Bolindale Church, which also has a food pantry.
She said Howland Township officials also helped raise money.
Byrne said the pantry is run by volunteers from the church who help set up and check in residents. Food items are placed on shelves and others in cooler rooms where there are refrigerators.
"We never believed how much of a need there was until we saw how many people locally needed help,'' he said.
''Everyone works together to make it successful,'' Fessler said.
She said on the last Saturday of the month, church members prepare a free community meal and have served 200 people some months.
Byrne said he is in contact with the Wean Foundation for assistance.