While the line of hungry people looking for a warm meal aren't getting any shorter at the Sioux Falls Banquet, the number of volunteers needed to serve those meals is thinning out. The Banquet serves eleven meals every week, but early in the year, it struggles to find help.
All bundled up, dozens of people in search of a hot breakfast gather at the Banquet each morning and they're not alone. Volunteers wake up early to help serve the food, but those helpers have been in short supply lately.
"We actually appear to be fairly short of staff today. Yesterday we served 182 people and I think they said 18 were kids," volunteer Cory Diedrich said.
Diedrich is what Banquet officials call an "angel." That's because he answers the call whenever there's a last-minute need for volunteers. Banquet special events director Madeline Shields says helpers like Diedrich are priceless in a pinch but she'd like to see more groups stepping up to the plate.
"The problem with using the angels is that then we don't have a group to cover the cost of the meal and it comes out of the Banquet's funds. We love our angels but we could sure use some help to serve these meals with a group committed to pay for the meal," Shields said.
A breakfast meal costs about $350 to serve, and requires roughly 20 volunteers. It's been a hard commitment to lock down. At this time, the Banquet still has six open dates in January and seven in February.
"Once the new year starts, people are busy, they've been volunteering over the holidays and they just don't think about it," Shields said.
Any kind of support helps even if a group is willing to cover portions of the cost or manpower. Diedrich thinks it's a small price to pay when you see the need.
"You pull up at 6:15 in the morning and you see people standing outside and it's 7 degrees and it's blustery and windy and the snow is blowing and they're waiting out here for their potentially only hot meal of the day. It's nice to be able to come in and take care of that," Diedrich said.