BALTIMORE – For both American Muslims and homeless people, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service was a special one this year.
From the early hours on Sunday, volunteers from both the Muslim Social Services Agency and Islamic Relief USA handed out free hot meals and bags of toiletries.
“Fried chicken in the house!” exclaimed Carrie McLean, a 60-year-old elderly woman who received a hot meal outside St. Vincent de Paul Church in Baltimore.
“It’s a blessing. Can’t put it better than that.”
Mclean is one of the homeless people who received one of about 150 bags of toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, socks, deodorant, sanitary products, combs and washcloths, and another 250 or so meals of New York Fried Chicken and turkey and tuna fish sandwiches.
About 20 volunteers from the Muslim Social Services Agency and Islamic Relief USA spent their Sunday morning packing the food into containers and toiletries into care packages at the Masjid As Saffat mosque on West North Avenue.
Then they loaded them into cars and vans to be distributed to those in need at the downtown church, where many homeless congregate, and shelters nearby.
“That is what we’re all about: helping other people, helping the homeless, helping widows, helping orphans,” Imam Hassan A. Amin, executive director of the Muslim Social Services Agency, said.
“This is what we’re mandated to do. Matter of fact, [people of] all faiths are mandated to help other people.”
For years, the 15-year-old nonprofit organization in the city has been giving out food and other items on the second Saturday of each month.
The groups redoubled their efforts in 2015 after pharmacies and food stores were destroyed in the riots, leaving many in the city without food, medication and other resources.
“Immediately, once they found out riots were going on in Baltimore City … they came and said, ‘How can we help?’ ” Amin said.
“We asked [people] what they needed, and then we got it for them, in partnership with Islamic Relief.”
According to Amin, serving the less fortunate was the perfect way to spend the Sunday of Martin Luther King Day weekend.
“This is what [King] more than likely would have done,” Amin said, “the same thing we’re doing — to help those in need.”
Aziza Mwidau, a Muslim Social Services Agency volunteer who lives in Owings Mills, stressed that the noble Qur’an requires acts of service in addition to prayer and other faithful observations.
“Doing good is not just praying, it’s not just fasting, it’s also being conscious of the needs of your neighbors and the poor especially,” Mwidau said.
“On a day like today, when the temperature is in the teens, it gives more immense satisfaction to say someone who wasn’t expecting it gets a warm meal made with love.”