It is 5:30. I was supposed to be there at 5:15. I’m running late…I’m always running late. I pull into the parking lot on East 8th Street thinking “Oh, no! I forgot to remind the class last week about serving at the Banquet!” But as I peek into the brightly-lit dining hall, quickly shucking my coat and filling out a name tag, there they are, all smiles and on time, unlike their citizenship instructor.
Blerim, Abrahim, Jose, Elizabeth, and Elida—all English and Citizenship students at the Center for New Americans—along with staff from the Center for New Americans, served the evening meal at the Banquet on February 27th alongside Augustana College students enrolled in a capstone course about issues surrounding poverty taught by Professor Reynold Nesiba. The meal had been prepared earlier that afternoon by several English students and LSS staff. Partnering to serve with another group was a valuable experience for me and the students. “I liked helping with other people…I liked serving with them.” Jose shared.
While serving in the food line, washing tables, and filling the endless requests for more coffee, water, and milk, clients, students and staff alike all learned more about people who are hungry in Sioux Falls. I saw looks of surprise on my students’ faces as the line for a hot supper continued to remain constant an hour into our time there.
The Banquet staff encourages all volunteers to sit down and eat with guests during some point in the evening, providing an opportunity to experience some common ground and solidarity and give the large and complex issue of hunger a face and a personal story. When the doors closed, we had served a total of 273 guests (22 of whom were children) and 18 gallons of milk. After being one of the volunteers who was in charge of refilling the milk, coffee, and water pitchers, Jose shared “It’s a good place [The Banquet]…a good place for people to get food who don’t have it.”
Serving at the Banquet is always rewarding, but also challenging. One leaves with a full belly and tired feet, but also a helping of sadness, desire for change, and a sense of urgency.
~Written by Kadie Becker, ESL Instructor at the Center for New Americans
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