Next month, The Banquet takes a new direction in its Sioux Falls feeding ministry: westward.
On February 12, volunteers will serve the first meal to families in-need in the multi-purpose building at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds. Volunteers and financial donations are the driving force behind this important push to the west.
Supplies are stacked away in a store room ready to become part of The Banquet's outreach clear across town.
"It's very exciting. We're really looking forward to expanding to the west side of Sioux Falls," The Banquet's Special Events Director Madeline Shields said.
Many families in northwest Sioux Falls are unable to make it to the meals served at The Banquet's downtown location. So, in just over two weeks, The Banquet will offer meals every Wednesday at the W.H. Lyon Fairgrounds.
"The northwest part of Sioux Falls, there are a lot of families that are struggling to put food on the tables and we know that this will really help a lot of those families that can't get to The Banquet currently," Shields said.
The expansion wouldn't be possible without contributions from the community. Sammons Financial Group is donating $125,000.
"With this particular donation, we looked for specifically an opportunity to invest in an organization like The Banquet that was making a difference in our community that had some level of transformational change they were going through. And with The Banquet West, they're doing just that, they're expanding services and meeting the growing needs in our community," Sammons Financial Group Shared Services President Rob TeKolste said.
$30,000 of the Sammons donation went to purchase a state-of-the art oven that will cook meals to be delivered to the fairgrounds.
"That is a huge blessing to have that oven to help us prepare those meals and do what we need to do to service both locations," Shields said.
Meals will stay hot during their trip across town inside heated containers.
"And so once we prepare the food here at The Banquet, they will be put into these pan warmers and these are designed to hold the food's temperature, so that we have all the safe food handling ready to go," Shields said.
The Banquet will have some of its most experienced volunteers on hand that first night to get the meals out to the fairgrounds and ready to serve.
"Whatever they want me to do, if they want me to help serve in the line, if they want me to just be there to greet people, I'm good at that, I love to do that," longtime volunteer Doug Erickson said.
Erickson is a retired Hayward Elementary principal. He saw first-hand the hardships facing kids in that northwest neighborhood.
"Hayward School right now has a pretty high rate of students on the free and reduced lunches. And I think The Banquet moving to start serving at the fairgrounds will really help those families," Erickson said.
The Banquet's westward expansion means no distance is too great in helping hundreds more families enjoy a warm evening meal.
"We're there to help them and it's just a good time to be helpful," Erickson said.
The Banquet chose to serve meals on Wednesdays because that's church night, when many youth groups are available to volunteer.
Sisson Printing has donated a truck to deliver the food to the fairgrounds.
Plenty of volunteers have signed up to help serve at the fairgrounds for the next two months. But The Banquet is always looking for help with serving breakfast at its downtown location.