FLORIDA – An Islamic school in Goldenrod, Florida, has opened its doors to fellow Americans of all faiths seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma, which bore down on southern Florida on Sunday.
“We can fit about 200 people,” Bassem Chaaban, director of outreach for the Islamic Society of Central Florida (ISCF) told Mic.com on Sunday, September 10.
He added that he was expecting more to show up as Sunday went on, “based on the looks of how this hurricane is going.”
Chaaban was talking about the Leaders Preparatory School, a private Muslim school that had become one of three area shelters operated by ISCF.
By Sunday afternoon, some 15 to 20 families were sheltered at the school.
The families who had shown up so far were “a mix of members of the Muslim community and members of the general public,” Chaaban said.
Some of the people who had shown up were refugees who were new to the US.
“They’ve never faced a hurricane before,” Chaaban said.
The families gathered at the school gym, sharing a meal, playing games, and setting up their bedding on prayer rugs.
Dinner on Saturday night was “just basic rice and chicken,” Chaaban said. “We have two generators if the electricity goes out,” he added.
Chaaban said he wasn’t sure how long the school would need to remain open as a shelter, but he said they’re prepared to remain open through Tuesday if needed.
“We’re tracking the storm just like everybody else,” Chaaban said.
“Anybody who’s seeking shelter, coming from Tampa, south Florida … we have plenty of room. We stand united with everybody in central Florida.”