For the previous month, over 150 scorching meals have been handed out to the general public in Manhattan’s Herald Sq. on a nightly foundation.
However it’s not the town’s doing.
Fairly, the meals are being cooked and ready at a mosque in Sundown Park as a part of an initiative for Muslims Giving Again [MGB], a volunteer-run meals financial institution and group help charity catering to homeless, immigrant and low-income New Yorkers.
“We’re right here to sort out meals insecurity.” Mohammed Widdi, a 32-year-old Palestinian American from Brooklyn and coordinator with MGB, mentioned. “And we’re agency believers in religion to motion and we’re all about including worth to individuals’s lives.”
Whereas the giveaways have been going down at 11:00pm in Herald Sq. each Friday and Saturday for the previous few years, volunteers have ramped up their efforts in the course of the holy month of Ramadan to make it a each day affair which is scheduled to finish Thursday night time with the celebration of Eid al Fitr, the “Pageant of Breaking the Quick.”
So each night time throughout Ramadan, a month of prayer, fasting, and reflection, Widdi has been driving a meals truck stuffed with halal meals throughout the Brooklyn Bridge to midtown Manhattan with the brand “Muslims Giving Again” proudly emblazoned on the aspect. Already ready should not solely the lots of of individuals searching for kindness and a meal, however a number of dozen volunteers related to the group establishing tables, passing round tea and scorching chocolate, and forming individuals into orderly traces.
Together with scorching meals, the group additionally gives hygiene kits, haircuts, garments, sneakers, and different facilities to whoever wants it.
Different organizations throughout New York additionally present free meals to those that go to, however MGB has remained one of many few charities who convey meals on to the streets for many who want it.
“We usually distribute 150 meals an evening, however there are numerous nights the place we do 300 meals and plus some,” Widdi mentioned. “However it does fluctuate, particularly throughout coronavirus. We’re really one of many solely organizations out right here handing out meals and the road was once wrapped across the block.”
One motive why the group has been capable of meet the elevated demand inflicted by the pandemic has been on account of their strong community of volunteers.
Whereas different meals banks throughout the town have been calling for extra helpers, MGB has been profitable in attracting so many volunteers and donations partly as a result of their mission to vary the detrimental narrative in opposition to Islam has resonated with younger Muslim People throughout the town, a lot of whom have skilled discrimination post-9/11.
“Islam isn’t what the media portrays,” Widdi mentioned. “On the finish of the day it’s tremendous necessary to point out what Islam actually is, and that’s why we’re out right here: the duty is on us.”
These kinds of shared experiences helped construct the group, the place now the MGB Fb group has grown to 30,000 lively supporters, with no less than 5 NYC faculties creating their very own department of Muslims Giving Again.
However the pandemic has made the work of volunteer-run organizations like Muslims Giving Again rather more difficult.
“The one time we do our annual fundraiser is throughout Ramadan which we do right here on the mosque the place we elevate cash to cowl a pair months of bills,” Mohammed Bahe, the director of MGB and the MCC, the mosque the place the charity relies, mentioned. “[Last year] there was no Ramadan, so we needed to do the whole lot on-line.”
Tax filings in 2019 present that the charity raised greater than $160,000 in income. Final yr the charity raised just below $100,000, based on Bahe.
“Now we have a 100% donation coverage,” Bahe mentioned. “A greenback is available in, and a greenback goes out to the price of the mission.”
But the volunteers at MGB should not ones to be deterred. Prior to now yr, meal distribution has expanded to different components of the town to incorporate components of Harlem, Queens, and Brooklyn’s Sundown Park.
In actual fact, all of the arduous work in elevating consciousness to finish meals insecurity within the metropolis by the facility of religion led the group to buy their second meals truck simply this week.
“Charity is extra finished for us,” Widdi mentioned. “So, once we hand somebody meals, we do not count on a thanks from them. We inform them thanks.”
Joseph Gedeon reported this story for the Gothamist/WNYC’s Race & Justice Unit. When you have a tip, some knowledge, or a narrative concept, e mail reporter Joseph Gedeon at email@example.com or DM him on Twitter @JGedeon1. It’s also possible to textual content him ideas through the encrypted cellphone app Sign, or in any other case, at 929-351-5374.