SIOUX FALLS, SD -
The number of people going to The Banquet is growing. Since adding more meals, the need for volunteers is also growing.
"I work 10:00 at night until 6:30 in the morning. And they start serving breakfast here at 7:00. So I make it right down here for breakfast," Banquet guest Ray Feller said.
Feller is one of thousands of people who come to The Banquet for a free meal. And with more people seeking assistance for basic needs like food, The Banquet is expanding its services to keep up.
"Five years ago when I started here, your average breakfast was about 125 people coming to visit. Now the average breakfast is about 225 people. So that shows some growth; quite a bit of growth," Director of The Banquet Tamera Jerke-Liesinger said.
With the addition of breakfast two more days a week, the ministry now serves 11 meals Monday through Saturday. That adds up to more than 21,000 meals in the year ahead.
With the expansion comes a greater need for volunteers in the morning.
"I think we have an obligation for our community to serve people in need. And The Banquet serves a real important purpose, in order to fulfill that," volunteer Eric Schulte said.
"For many people, they wouldn't get a chance to eat if it wasn't for this place," Feller said.
Recently, the food ministry served more than 600 people in a single dinner. Fifteen percent of guests are kids. Those with The Banquet say the need isn't going anywhere.
"Unfortunately as time goes on that number is more of a reality than it ever used to be. Five years ago, 600 would have seemed like a crazy number. Now that's a realistic number for us to plan for," Jerke-Liesinger said.
Workers and volunteers agree, one of the biggest misconceptions is that the people at The Banquet are unemployed. But that's not always the case. Feller, for example, is a full-time custodian at Southeast Tech.
"I've been coming now for almost 13 years, and I've been meeting people all along. I know quite a few people that come here now. And I'm always meeting new people all the time. And I'm very thankful for that," Feller said.
"Even if you're working full-time. Even if you're bringing home a steady paycheck, it's still very difficult for a lot of people in this community to put food on the table and to support their family," Schulte said.
You can find more information about volunteering at The Banquet's website or call 605-335-7066.
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