SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Banquet in Sioux Falls offers meals to people in need, and there are many people who take them up on the offer. The organization opened up a permanent location on March 9 in west Sioux Falls, and the number of people receiving meals there has increased.
Here, Robin Thrift and her son Brandon Geis are eating their meals in their car. They come to this Banquet location every weekday.
“They’re very caring here and very understanding of your needs,” Thrift said. “I think that they put a huge effort into helping people that are less fortunate. People that are struggling with addiction, people that can’t find a way, people that have lost their job, people that have just come down on their luck and there’s nowhere else for them to turn.”
She would know– that’s her life.
“This is the situation I found myself in,” Thrift said. “I really enjoy coming here, not only for a meal, but for the fellowship and the love and the care that they put forth in helping other people.”
The mother and son eat at The Banquet’s downtown location on Saturday. Geis suffered a traumatic brain injury, and Thrift takes care of him. Without The Banquet locations, this mom doesn’t know what she would do.
“It would be a real tough time for us,” Thrift said. “We are low-income. Health issues. And if we didn’t have people like this or places like this to go to, I think a lot of us would find ourself even lower in life, because there’s not a whole lot that could help us if there wasn’t places like this. I really appreciate it, I really respect them for what they do.”
Tamera Jerke-Liesinger, The Banquet’s executive director, says more people are receiving meals at the new facility.
“We’ve seen a big uptick in our numbers here at the west-side location,” Jerke-Liesinger said. “When we first opened up, we knew we were going to be kind of new to the neighborhood, and so we figured it would take us a little bit to get some traction. But it took a little bit longer given the COVID situation. So, now as people in the community and the neighborhood, they’re hearing about us, they’re realizing the services we provide, our numbers are growing every week.”
Recently, the number of nightly meals increased from around 180 to 250.
“If you look back on our five months here in our new building, the first night that we served on March ninth, we served 141 meals,” Jerke-Liesinger said. “So when you look five months later and now we’re a hundred more meals a night, that is pretty significant growth. So what I think that’s showing is that the neighborhood, there is a need in the neighborhood, there’s need in the community.”
New faces are also appearing at each location.
“We get phone calls pretty much every week from people saying, ‘I’ve been laid off now for three months, I’ve never needed to use The Banquet, is there, what do I need to do to be able to come?'” Jerke-Liesinger said. “And we just tell people everybody is welcome, so you don’t have to prove anything to us.”
Even if you’re not facing tough times, Thrift suggests a visit.
“See what it means to a lot of people that are less fortunate than some other ones, people that have never experienced situations like we are in, to come and see what it is, come and see what we go through that, for us that don’t have what a lot of people have,” Thrift said.
As for her, she’s thankful.
“I don’t know what I’d do without some of the places like this,” Thrift said.
The Banquet is in need of volunteers at both locations; check out this link to find out how you can help.