Sanford Health staff serves a breakfast Banquet

Sanford marketing department volunteers at meal ministry's early shift

Kathleen Rowland Hong puts strawberries on a visitor's tray while volunteering at The Banquet.
Kathleen Rowland Hong puts strawberries on a visitor's tray while volunteering at The Banquet.

In the darkness a half-hour yet before it was time to serve breakfast, The Banquet food service manager Renee Giese began coaching up the “Blue Crew” in preparation for the doors opening at 7 a.m.

In this case, the “Blue Crew” was a group of volunteers from the Sanford Health marketing department wearing matching t-shirts. The Banquet, meanwhile, is a volunteer-based ministry identified most closely with preparing and serving meals. Together, these two entities were going to collaborate to help sustain a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tradition of charity.

“This works very well with the mission we have at Sanford Health,” said David Tesch, Sanford marketing art director. “Give back what you can and make sure it’s purposeful. And that’s what this was. Today was all about having purpose. Today we came in, we made breakfast and did what we could to make lives better.”

At 5:30 a.m., the first of the volunteers were making coffee and assisting in other prep work. By 6:30 a.m., the full squad was there listening as Giese spelled out how the morning was going to go.

The Banquet offers perspective

Giese’s short talk was part information, part inspiration. When it was time to get rolling she had everyone where they were supposed to be.

Obviously, this was not her first breakfast. She was well-aware, however, that many of the people she was speaking to were Banquet rookies.

“You guys get an ‘A’,” she said, assessing the work of the team afterward. “If everybody gets fed, the team gets an ‘A’.”

The Sanford “Blue Crew” served 198 for breakfast. At the front, Jenny Rackl used a two-scoop approach to putting a sausage-and-peppers side dish on trays as they went through the serving line.

Rackl, Sanford marketing’s managing editor of copywriting, had volunteered to be part of these morning breakfasts at The Banquet before. She was a good choice for one of the Blue Crew’s most demanding tasks based on that experience. The added bonus was a personal commitment to the cause.

“It gives you good perspective on your own life and what really matters,” Rackl said. “You realize how fortunate you are. It’s great to get the opportunity to interact with people with different backgrounds and different life experiences. They’re always great — they have great personalities, they’re always friendly and grateful. It makes you feel good.”

A matter of commitment

The Banquet, which began in 1985 scheduling one gathering a week, served a total of 196,000 people in 2017.

Sustaining the service depends on commitment. Fortunately, that matches up nicely with those looking for opportunities to help.

In this case, it presented an on-target way for staff to direct time and talents to an effort that offers necessary support in the community.

“It’s a great way to break down walls,” said Tesch, who organized the Blue Crew team. “Everyone works together. We’re all working toward a common cause all the time in our jobs but it’s segmented. Here there was one focal point. It was about getting the food out. That was our goal at 5:30 this morning cracking eggs, making toast and cutting and washing the fruit. We had to focus and dial in and get it done.”

Getting everyone to work

Later, after the work was complete for the morning, Giese reviewed future opportunities to get involved. In some ways it was a reminder that this is how it is every day both for the full-time staff and for the people who come through the doors at 7 a.m.

“A lot of people who came in this morning were in a hurry because they had to go to work,” Giese said. “They have to have something to eat before they work so they can function throughout the day. That’s a main goal here — so they can have something in their stomach so they can work or go look for a job. We encourage them and send them on their way.”

In this case, the same applied to the Sanford team, some of whom were getting their first taste of a morning helping out at The Banquet. Sustenance comes in many forms.

“It’s good to get out of the office together,” Rackl said. “It’s good to be of service to the community together and it helps you loosen up and get to know each other a little better. We can share some common interests and do some good for others.”

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Posted In Community, Faces of Sanford Health

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