Local Muslims reach out to homeless

Food, clothes aid the less fortunate

The Boston Globe

October 15, 2006

By Michael Levenson

 

They handed out bags of apples, bagels, granola bars, and raisins, hats, socks, sweatshirts, rain ponchos, and, for the children who came with arms outstretched, toy cars.

This was the first annual Humanitarian Day for the Homeless, an event organized by Boston-area Muslims to feed and clothe the homeless during the holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims observe Ramadan by praying, performing acts of charity, and fasting from sunup to sundown, to draw them nearer to Allah and to remind them of the hardships the poor endure.

The event yesterday was a way to put into action the principles of Ramadan, participants said.

In a gymnasium at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury Crossing, 350 volunteers, from local mosques, colleges, and community groups, presided over tables stacked high with food, clothing, and toys donated by local businesses.

Hundreds of homeless men, women, and children streamed past, collecting the goods in bags. In a room downstairs, volunteers performed free health screenings, testing people for high blood pressure and diabetes. Organizers said they expected to serve 2,000 people over the weekend.

Mona Ahmad of Malden was helping to distribute bottles of water, and urging people who had come by to return with friends.

“I just wanted to do something good, especially during the holy month of Ramadan,” said a man who gave his name as Ahmad, 33.

“We’re supposed to help those who are less fortunate all year ’round, but . . . during Ramadan it really brings it out,” he said.

Similar events are taking place this weekend in 14 cities across the United States, said one of the chief organizers, Nataka Crayton of Roxbury.

“The great thing today is people, without politics, without personal agendas, can come together to focus on a goal and accomplish it,” Crayton said. “It’s really amazing what committed people who are willing to help other people can do.”

Those who had come to take advantage of the free food and clothing said they were thankful for the kindness they had been shown. “I really appreciate it,” said Robert Smith , 52, who lives in the city’s shelter on Long Island. He walked out yesterday with several bags of clothing and snacks.

“It’s a great thing to see these people get out there and help us — the homeless,” Smith said.

Volunteers had spread word of the event through Boston’s homeless shelters. Many who came yesterday said they had seen posters advertising Humanitarian Day in their shelter. Volunteers were organized through the Islamic Society of Boston, the Association of Muslim Professionals, Islamic Relief, and other groups.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/10/15/local_muslims_reach_out_to_homeless?mode=PF

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