SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As the snow and wind keeps up across KELOLAND, a lot of schools and other organizations are closed due to the blizzard conditions, but a nonprofit in Sioux Falls is committed to staying open and making sure there is a free meal available for people in need.
Even in a blizzard, volunteers show up at The Banquet.
“We have awesome staff and awesome volunteers who braved the weather to come out and make sure that our meals happen tonight at both locations,” executive director Tamera Jerke-Liesinger said.
While they were up and running all day, it was still a challenge to make that happen.
“We had some staffing challenges. Some of us had to carpool to get here. Those of us with four-wheel drives picked up our co-workers. Volunteer, some of them that were scheduled to come weren’t able to make it, but then we had others who called in and said, ‘do you need help today? I can make it,” Jerke-Liesinger said.
Alakiir Gak is one of those people. She is a junior at Washington High School and spent her snow day off of school volunteering.
“A lot of volunteers, they would cancel because of the weather, and I thought that there was going to be a limited amount of volunteers, so I came here to try to help,” Gak said.
Even though it took some extra work to get there, she says it’s worth it for the joy it brings.
“This is my third time here and it’s not going to be last time,” Gak said.
The free meal is an important part of people’s lives. Dawn Srstka was there for dinner and says she has also volunteered with her church on occasion.
“In my case, it stretches out my grocery budget. You go and get the groceries, but when you know it’s the middle to the end of the month like it is now, coming over here for a meal helps stretch your groceries out,” she said.
Jerke-Liesinger says in her 15 years at The Banquet, she can only recall one time they had to close because of a blizzard.
“That’s our ministry. That’s our mission. And so when we’re not here doing that, we’re not carrying out what we’re here to do and so it’s very important to us, and the days when we see these volunteers walk through the doors, I can’t begin to tell you what that means to us,” she said.
If you’d like to help volunteer, you can sign up on The Banquet’s website or call their office at (605) 335-7066.