Two months ago, the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center's Food Choice Pantry served nearly as many individuals as it did for all of 2007.

Two months ago, the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center's Food Choice Pantry served nearly as many individuals as it did for all of 2007.

The center served 19,632 meals to 1,061 individuals representing 395 households in August.

"We'll have close to that again in September," said Beth Stewart-Magee, the supervisor who runs the pantry. "I really thought it would go down because kids are going back to school."

Those totals represent a dramatic jump from January's numbers: 12,912 meals to 608 individuals representing 245 households.

Another trend is larger nontraditional families, Stewart-Magee said.

"It's not weird to have a family that's seven to 14 people in a household living in a two- or three-bedroom apartment. That's becoming more common."

Times are worse than Clintonville resident Stewart-Magee, 53, can recall in her 11 years with the CRC, and she doesn't expect it to get any better over the holiday months.

"The economy is off. We're seeing people who used to be donors. We've had people who have been out of work for two years. I have people who are devastated to walk in here."

Yet the people who do walk into the CRC can receive a variety of social services from this United Way member agency. Many of its volunteers are also clients.

"We're one of seven settlement houses in Columbus," Stewart-Magee said. "We provide whatever the neighborhood needs. We try to do all sorts of stuff for people."

Stewart-Magee said first-timers fill out some paperwork and talk to CRC staff. Based on their needs, they can be referred to other organizations, such as the Ohio Benefit Bank.

For those needing food, eligible individuals are allowed to select a week's worth of food for each member of their household each month at the CRC.

The back of this former library is a food warehouse, with the bulk of its canned goods and other staples from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, but there are also items like damaged boxes of crackers and vegetables grown in local church gardens.

There's also food in newly acquired refrigeration units that Stewart-Magee said took her four years to get.

"We're the only pantry between Worthington and the Ohio State campus, and now we're serving Upper Arlington," Stewart-Magee said.

Everyone who uses the pantry has a sad story to tell. Ramona Simpson's tale is heartbreaking and heartwarming.

"There are people who go from riches to rags. It could happen to any of us," Simpson said as she made her monthly visit to the CRC.

Simpson, 48, had a six-figure salary and a beautiful home on the south side of Columbus. But last January, Simpson said, "My intestines burst."

Vomiting bile while waiting to be admitted into a hospital, Simpson nearly died a couple of times. The four surgeries Simpson had saved her life, but burst her finances.

"I lost everything. When I got home, someone had ransacked my house."

And while she said friends deserted her, Simpson's sons helped Ramona recuperate. Ervin, 25, quit his job to take care of her, and Eric, 27, supported them with his truck-driving job.

Ramona Simpson has since found low-income housing in Clintonville, and she has receiv-ed clothing and food from the CRC.

"I'm grateful for this place. Everyone here is very sweet. This is a total blessing to me, because I'm out of food," Simpson said. She gets $200 a month for food stamps and $115 a month in General Assistance, but because of her health, she is unable to work.

Simpson's faith and optimism have helped her persevere.

"I'm starting my life over from the bottom. I'm not ashamed, I'm grateful. God, He's taking care of me. I believe it was all a part of God's plan -- 'Look, young lady, there's more to life than what you know.'

"It's been a journey, but if I could start over, I wouldn't change a thing."