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Girl Talk
Serving at The Banquet
By By Jill Meier
Challenger editor

February 05. 2014 9:48AM
Someone once told me that serving at The Banquet would be an eye-opening experience.

While I didnít dismiss those words from my memory, I honestly didnít know how true those words would be until last month. Itís the first time I volunteered to help out at the Sioux Falls-based facility, and it wonít be my last.

So when a friend who works for Town & Country Realtors in Brandon put out a call for volunteers to help serve breakfast last month, I decided it was time to experience what many of you have already done.

Iíll be honest, I didnít know what to expect when I arrived at The Banquet at 6:30 that morning. The sky was still dark and a few of the folks eager to come inside out of the cold for a warm meal and fellowship, were meandering about. Iíll admit to a bit of apprehension as I opened my car door with my $1.59 cappuccino in hand. I quickly surmised though that they werenít there to take what I have; they were there simply because they donít have enough money to put food on their tables and have little to no other option for a nutritious, hot breakfast.

Moments after arriving, The Banquet staff enlightened us on the ďdoísĒ and ďdo notísĒ of volunteering there, and then assigned us to our respective stations. I was tasked with the job of ďreliever,Ē which basically meant I filled in at the various stations while those people took time out to eat alongside The Banquet guests.

My first job was get a plate of breakfast, find a table and wait for some guests to join me. We were encouraged to strike up a conversation with them, which, for my first experience, proved to be a bit difficult. I was halfway through my meal when man and a woman plunked their trays down at my table. I immediately addressed them, only to quickly discover we had a communication barrier: they were deaf and I have no knowledge of sign language.

While we didnít exchange a word, our conversation took place through a simple smile.

As I sat there and finished my breakfast in silence, I couldnít keep myself from wondering what brought each and every one of these people to this place. Was there a former lawyer or doctor or teacher amongst them? Did they lose their life savings in the stock market or was this lifestyle inherited? Did they have homes or find comfort at the neighboring Mission or other available facilities for the homeless?

While each of their personal stories was certainly none of my business, I did wonder. And on my drive back to Brandon that morning, it made me even more appreciative of a warm bed to crawl into at night, a good job to go to each day, food in the fridge and a few dollars in my bank account.

And it also made me realize that thereís plenty of opportunities to volunteer, to extend a helping hand or drop a few bucks into the donation bucket to help those right here where we live.
More about The Banquet
According to The Banquet website, the agency Ė with overwhelming volunteer and financial support from the surrounding area Ė served more than 150,000 meals in 2012, with 21,000 of those meals served to kids 12 years of age and younger. They also provided 6,500 backpacks filled with school supplies for children in and around Sioux Falls.

Although itís hard to know exactly how many volunteer hours are logged at The Banquet, their research shows that volunteer work is equal to 30 full-time employees.

The Banquet provides breakfast from 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, noon lunch on Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and evening dinner from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

To learn more, go to or call 335-7066.
Community organization needs
Needs at the Brandon Area Food Pantry in February are instant oatmeal, Homestyle Bakes, Ramen noodles, pizza sauce and pizza crust mixes.

While always appreciated, the Pantry has a large supply of canned goods in stock.
Monetary donations are always appreciated. Before donating, please check the expiration date, as expired food items cannot be distributed.

The BAFP is located at 406 Main Ave., and is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. To donate to the food pantry or for more information, call 582-7001.

The Brandon Lions Club also wants your aluminum cans. Proceeds from the sale of aluminum funds requests to the Club for vision and hearing impairment needs.
The Lions Club collection shed is located in the Sunshine Foods parking lot.

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