Even as the economy improves, a lot of families are still struggling to make ends meet. And with school just around the corner, thousands of students will turn to a local program for help.
It's a time many kids look forward to. But what if you couldn't afford school supplies? The Banquet wants to make sure those students get an equal shot at starting their year right with a little help from the community.
From a new backpack to crisp, new notebooks and perfectly sharpened pencils, the first day of school is a memory most children never forget.
“It's a big day for kids. They come, they have their new backpacks, their new supplies. It's fun. It's a very big day for the kids," shopper Carmen Hillman said.
But not all families can afford to give their kids brand new essentials for the first day. That's where the Banquet in Sioux Falls comes in.
"Project SOS stands for Supply Our Students. So every year we collect and distribute new school supplies and backpacks to children whose parents cannot afford those items. We started this program about 24 years ago and now we are to the point where last year we gave out over 6,500 bags," Banquet Executive Director Tamera Jerky-Liesinger said.
It's a project almost everyone can relate to, which is why some are so quick to get involved and even take it a step further.
"It's a good feeling, I usually will actually go and purchase things that are her age for kids that are going to be in kindergarten. And I have two other kids so I usually purchase the same age group's supplies for them as well," Hillman said.
By distributing backpacks, not only to Sioux Falls students but also Brandon and Harrisburg, The Banquet realizes the need is one that won't go away anytime soon and has benefits that can last a lifetime.
"Well obviously when you give out 6,500 bags, there is a significant need in our community. And it's not just the Sioux Falls community. We also have children that are coming from the smaller towns around us, you know," Jerky-Liesinger said.
"It helps benefit the kids and the families that maybe can’t afford it that year. And it is very expensive to go out and get supplies for the kids and if you have two or three kids. It adds up," Hillman said.
If you would like to donate some supplies the banquet has drop boxes set up all around town. For a complete list of needed supplies and where to drop them, visit The Banquet’s website.