Muslims celebrate Ramadan by helping needy - Islamic Relief USA

By Santiago Esparza

The Detroit News

September 29, 2007

DETROIT – John Thomas waited more than two hours to snag a few bags of free children’s clothing and toys for his two sons Saturday, but did not mind the long line at Cass Park.

By 11:30 a.m. Saturday, more than 50 people were already waiting in line ahead of the 41-year-old Detroiter to receive assistance as part of this year’s Humanitarian Day.

Islamic Relief hosted the third annual Humanitarian Day as part of a national observance of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Muslims in 19 other cities also participated, including in Los Angeles where Humanitarian Day originated.

This afternoon, organizers were giving away two thousands bags of winter items such as hats, gloves, sweatshirts and socks. They also gave out food and children were given balloons, toys and books. The Church of Latter Day Saints donated hygiene packs and free health screenings also were offered.

Organizers bused in homeless people from area shelters and sent 1,000 packs of clothing to other shelters. More than 20,000 people nationally will receive such help, organizers said.

During Ramadan, Muslims must fast during the daytime and eat small meals at night. Muslims perform acts of charity or volunteer as a way to celebrate the month, volunteers at Saturday’s event said.

“Fasting lets you now what it is like not to have a meal,” said Leslie “Lamiya” Wade, a Detroit event organizer. “It is a tiny taste of what people go through every year.”

A line of about 200 people formed an “L” around a corner of the park as people waited in line.

Streets around the park were dotted by people walking with large black bags containing the free goodies they received at the park. Some traded clothes and others gave away toys to children who got there too late to get the stuffed animal they really wanted. Volunteers surveyed people who received packages to see what improvements they can make next year.

“I wanted to help because it is our holy month,” said Salma Samad, a 23-year-old St. Clair Shores volunteer as she collated surveys she completed. “I wanted to do something special. There is a large crowd. I am impressed.”

Linda Huntley, a 52-year-old Detroiter who rode a bike through the line with an empty can of beer in the bike’s water bottle holder, appreciated the clothing.

“It is beautiful,” she said. “It is really nice.”

Thomas said his boys, ages 8 and 12 years old, can never seem to keep track of their hats and gloves and that the ones he received today are a blessing.

“I really appreciate it,” he said. “There are a lot of people out here who can’t afford to buy the hats and clothes.”

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