South Dakota man runs programs to help feed residents

Monday, July 9, 2018

CHAMBERLAIN, S.D. (AP) — As Brian Hodgins scrapes off his grill, making way for pork tenderloins and burgers to feed attendees at River City Friday Nights in Chamberlain, he prepares to cook for a cause.

Hodgins, a general manager at Chamberlain Food Center, has been impacting the community by creating programs like “Shop of the Cop” and “Helping Ends Meat,” which are geared toward helping less fortunate kids and families through free-will donations.

“In Chamberlain, there is a serious need for helping kids with less fortune, and bringing programs to the community that help these kids is something I take very seriously,” Hodgins told The Daily Republic.

After Hodgins learned about a food vendor opening for this summer’s second River City Friday Night, he jumped on the opportunity. He’s donating $1 out of each meal served to “Shop of the Cop.”

“Shop of the Cop,” is a program Hodgins brought to the community when he joined Chamberlain Food Center in April 2017. The program aims to give underprivileged kids in families that are unable to afford holiday expenses an opportunity to celebrate Christmas.

“Some kids in the community will wake up on Christmas morning this year, and it will be just another day,” he said. “Helping these kids get a chance to celebrate Christmas while allowing them to get a positive image of local law enforcement means the world to me.”

Hodgins sets aside proper funds through donations to have a law enforcement officer take each kid to Shopko and buy gifts within a budget.

Dan Comfert, owner of Chamberlain Food Center and CFC Food and Fuel, joined Hodgins and serve what they believe could be close to 1,000 guests on a recent evening in downtown Chamberlain for River City Friday Nights.

“There is a lot of low income families around here, and Brian has made such a big impact since he joined me and became a manager,” Comfert said. “This community supports us so well, and this is the least we can do to give back.”

RCFN kicked off on June 15, as downtown Chamberlain hosts the event each Friday night for five consecutive weeks. Each night is themed differently, and Friday’s theme was Military and Public Service Night, which has special significance for Hodgins.

“My father was a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, so the theme for this Friday’s River City Friday Nights means a lot to me, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Hodgins said.

Comfert and Hodgins also had donation jars at their booth for “Helping Ends Meat,” a program that ensures every child will get a full lunch, not a “shame” lunch.

Hodgins was approached by an affiliate with South Dakota’s BackPack lunch program, which helps public schools provide free or reduced meals to children at risk of hunger and prompted him to come up with “Helping ends Meat.”

“I wanted to make sure every kid had a hot meal at lunch, instead of a cold cheese sandwich,” Hodgins said.

Hodgins is in the middle of working on his program “Helping Ends Meat,” with K-6 Chamberlain Principal Rocky Almond.

Mike Normile, executive director at the Chamberlain Chamber of Commerce, said Chamberlain Food Center was recognized as the 2017 Business of the Year.

“Brian has brought some very interesting programs that have helped impact our community, and Chamberlain is very fortunate to have him in the community,” Normile said.

Comfert and Hodgins plan to continue making their impact on the community they’ve served, as Chamberlain Food Center will be hosting a ribfest in the near future and raise money through free-will donations that will go toward the “Helping Ends Meat” program.

“I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to give back to the community and make an impact in the lives of people in Chamberlain,” Comfert said.

“I wanted to make sure every kid had a hot meal at lunch, instead of a cold cheese sandwich.”
Brian Hodgins General Manager at Chamberlain Food Center