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Brookings First UMC's Harvest Table: Serving people for 2 decades

By: Andrea Hult, intern, Dakotas UMC

Harvest Table 1

The Harvest Table serves meals each week at First UMC in Brookings. Photos courtesy of the Harvest Table.

Brookings First United Methodist Church in Brookings, South Dakota, has been feeding members of the Brookings community for over twenty years. With the help of many volunteers, the Harvest Table serves fifty to a hundred people per week.

The Harvest Table provides meals for the Brookings community out of the Community Life Center connected to Brookings First UMC every Monday night. However, due to COVID, they haven’t served the community since March of 2020.

Vonda Kirkham has been working with the Harvest Table since 2001. Vonda serves as the director of the Harvest Table.

It all started in 2000 when a group from Brookings First UMC began serving meals at The Baquet in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. After discussing if there was a need for something similar in Brookings, the group decided to test the waters. They began by offering a hot meal to community members to whoever showed up. Since then, it has grown immensely.

The group started serving a meal only once a month. Volunteers were plentiful, so they changed it to twice a month. There was also a great need. Hungry people kept showing up, and the number of meals needed grew. Volunteers and hungry people multiplied. The dinner is now served once a week.  

The Harvest Table operates with a group of twelve or more people. Vonda coordinates the volunteers to work on the dates they are available.  Once the date is set, the group oversees planning the menu, getting groceries, prepping the meal, serving, and cleaning up.

The Harvest Table runs on many volunteers for the meal. It also takes volunteers behind the scenes for it to be as successful as it is. There are volunteers in areas like the people announcing that it’s time for their table to get in line for a meal: volunteers host children’s activities and a room where diapers are given away to families who need them. During the week, some volunteers pick up groceries and donations.  

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Harvest Table volunteers ready to serve a meal.

The entire community of Brookings supports the Harvest Table, even the local university, South Dakotas State University. Nursing students from South Dakota State University do blood pressure and glucose tests at the Harvest Table. College students and community groups frequently volunteer.

Vonda has been working with the Harvest Table since 2001 and says, “I have stuck with it because I feel it is a valuable program for the guests and the community.”

The Harvest Table is hoping to resume serving sit down meals to the Brookings community in September. “I hope there is still a need in the community and to be still able to meet the need of the community once we start back up,” says Vonda.

The Harvest Table is an example of how churches feed the bodies and souls of people in local communities across the Dakotas Conference. If you have an idea for starting or expanding a local outreach program to feed the hungry support the 2021 Miracle Offering: Feeding the Dakotas. One-third of the gifts received will be distributed back to local hunger programs. 

UMC

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