- Associated Press - Monday, January 11, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Rev. Kyle Reinhiller believes in the innate goodness of humanity.

People want to help their neighbor, he said. And the pastor at Harrisburg United Methodist Church finds proof in the Sioux Falls-area community. It starts with volunteers who bring food to the hungry each Sunday night. It led to the $15,000 anonymous donation his church received recently to help those volunteers.

“They want to be part of the story. They want to participate in it,” Reinhiller told the Argus Leader (https://argusne.ws/1MWhkdX ). “This might sound really cheesy. I do believe people have a desire to give.”

The Nightwatch Canteen follows a short path each Sunday, serving meals at two downtown parking lots. But the program has been an inspiration for people and organizations anxious to support the Canteen’s efforts.

It comes from all of the seven United Methodist churches behind the Canteen. It comes from Raven Industries, which lets volunteers use its parking lot each week. It came from the Salvation Army, which until recently allowed the Canteen to borrow its recreational vehicle to deliver hot food.

Now, it’s coming from Argus Leader Media, which is trying to help the Canteen find a new mode of transporting food. Donations to the Lend-A-Hand charitable giving program will go toward a new set of wheels for the Canteen, helping volunteers bring no-strings-attached meals to the men, women and children in need.

The Lend-A-Hand program has sparked a broader interest in the work of the Canteen, Reinhiller said.

“People have come out of the woodwork to participate,” Reinhiller said. “It’s reunited my own passion for story.”

Ben Duenwald, owner-manager of Flyboy Donuts, learned about the Canteen from his sister, who read about it in the newspaper.

Doughnuts have a short shelf life, and Duenwald doesn’t like to toss hundreds of the day-old pastries into the trash. Leftovers go to another charity during the week.

The Canteen seemed like an opportunity to extend his store’s generosity through the weekend.

“It’s a dessert for anybody,” Duenwald said. “It doesn’t need to be only the wealthy, or those who can pay for it.”

Reinhiller is seeing more people come forward to volunteer and donate, but even before Lend-A-Hand there was a strong support network responsible for helping the Canteen bring food to the masses.

Providing a backbone to this network are volunteers such as Kris Rees. Rees, a member of Hilltop United Methodist Church, helped prepare meatloaf and mashed potatoes earlier this month for about 130 Canteen patrons.

People are drawn to the service because it meets a need when other places are closed, Rees said.

“These families still need some kind of access to get a meal,” Rees said.

The support network goes both ways. Some groups, such as the Children’s Inn and St. Francis House, also benefit from the Canteen’s work. Volunteers make drop-offs at the end of the day if there are leftovers.

Other groups, such as Feeding South Dakota, provide a windfall to churches that need a large quantity of food on a limited budget. Rees took advantage of the nonprofit’s discounted food this month to help cover her church’s costs.

“If we were to go purchase all of that, especially meat, at a grocery store, it’s just astronomical,” Rees said. “It would be just about impossible.”

Instead, the grocery bill for Hilltop was $115.

Feeding South Dakota provided more than 12 million pounds of food last year. Ground turkey and other meats go for 18 cents per pound, said Diane Briest, agency relations coordinator.

She hopes her organization can find ways to better serve the program as it evolves.

“I think it’s really a program that meets kind of an invisible need out there,” Briest said.


Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

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