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Help For The Holidays

December 11, 2013, 10:00 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Help For The Holidays
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

The shelves at Feeding South Dakota can be a lifeline for a struggling family. More and more families have been turning to Feeding South Dakota to make ends meet, and put food on the table.

"We continually see those numbers creeping up year-to-year and month-to-month, in fact. You know, we saw an eight percent increase in the number of people we served from October to November, for example," Matt Gassen, Feeding South Dakota Executive Director said.

This time of year brings a natural uptick in the number of struggling families in the area. One reason is the financial strain of the holidays, but that's not all.

"Winter puts a different kind of strain on a family budget. In the summer, you can get by without air conditioning but in the winter you have to have heat in your house. Utilities become a really important part of a family budget," Gassen said.

One of the ways Feeding South Dakota can help is through the backpack program. That program sends 3,500 students in 12 different school districts home with additional food for weekends and holiday breaks. With an extended break at the end of this month, Feeding South Dakota volunteers will fill those backpacks with a little more.

"That last distribution that we do before Christmas break, we always load up the food bags for them to give the kids extra stuff to take home with them, just to give them a little bit more and have available with," Gassen said. 

Feeding South Dakota isn't alone. The need is also increasing at The Banquet in downtown Sioux Falls.

"Our numbers, by the end of 2013, we're looking to have served about 10,000 more meals than we did in 2012. That's pretty significant. Being able to do this on only community support, it's amazing," The Banquet Executive Director Tamera Jerke-Liesinger said.

The Banquet serves eleven meals each week, which includes five breakfasts. Breakfasts can serve more than 200 people each day, evening meals can surpass 400 people.

"Everybody is thinking about the holidays and how they're going to make that happen for their children, so we're getting a lot of phone calls from people wondering how we can help," Jerke-Liesinger said.

While The Banquet lends that needed help, the organization needs help as well. Right now, the best way to make a difference for the holidays is through the program known as "Project Shower our Guests with Care." The goal of that program is to get hygiene kits into the hands of the guests at The Banquet.

"For you or I, we use those products every day and really don't give them a second thought. For many of the people who use The Banquet, those items are very difficult to come by because they're expensive. If we can help them out in this little way, it makes their lives a little bit easier," Jerke-Liesinger said.

As for Feeding South Dakota, they'll always accept donations of food, but they can make the most out of monetary donations.

"For three bucks you or I could go to the grocery store and get a box of cereal. With that same three dollars, we can get 12 boxes of cereal. That's really just how we're able to leverage those dollars," Gassen said.

And for those organizations hoping to help for the holidays, they know those who live here are too.

"It's a critical time every year for us. This is a time of year really when so many people are starting to think about helping others. We really rely on this time of year to help us with a lot of our food drives and our fund drives that will sustain us the rest of the year and into the spring and summertime," Gassen said.

"People are very generous this time of year. It's the time of year when people are thinking about giving. It is on everyone's mind. This is the time of year we receive the majority of our donations," Jerke Liesinger said.

And it's that spirit of giving that's sure to make the season a bit more bright.

If you would like to help with The Banquet's project, you can purchase one of the hygiene kits at area Lewis Drug stores for ten dollars.

The Salvation Army is also busy this time of year. Red Kettle bell ringers have collected more than $100,000 thus far.  Toys are still needed for the Angel Tree and the Teen Town program.

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