CAIRO – Muslim volunteers from the Islamic Circle of North America Relief have handed out 700 ‘mercy bags’ to needy seniors and homeless, in the second year of service project in Baltimore.
“Our convention was around the same time,” Naeem Baig, president of the Islamic Circle of North America, told The Baltimore Sun.
“We came up with the idea that thousands of Muslims are coming to Baltimore, what are we going to do for the city of Baltimore?
“People were going through difficult times. Many seniors and homeless people were in need of sanitary products.”
The “Mercy Bags for Baltimore” service project came to Baltimore with the 41st annual Islamic Circle of North America conference, which runs from May 28-30.
The gathering of about 25,000 Muslims are seeking to dispel Islamophobia by educating the general public about their religion.
It’s the conference’s third year in Baltimore, and organizers plan to return for the next two years.
According to Baig, the fear of Muslims has become “alarmingly commonplace” in the United States especially on the presidential campaign trail.
Saad Malik, an organizer with the Islamic Circle of North America Relief USA, addressed the group before they handed out the rest of the bags to the homeless outside St. Vincent de Paul Church in Jonestown.
“It’s an honor for us to be here,” said Malik, 23, of Catonsville.
“We do this work for Allah. We do this to praise God.”
Imam Hassan Amin, 63, of Howard Park, strolled into the park next to the church, greeted the homeless people who live there and handed out bags of goods.
“We’re there to try to help them,” he said.
“We want to connect people to resources to make their lives better.”
Offering help to the needy, the service bags came in a crucial time for many residents.
“A lot of us are on fixed income,” Gloria Reese, 69, has lived at Linden Park for five years, said.
“Taking care of the necessary bills, with medicine so high, these things come in handy. It helps a lot.”
“The last week of the month, everybody starts running out of things,” she added.
On Sunday, Katie Crowder, 68, a seven-year resident of Linden Park, was one of those who received bags of fruit, water, toothbrushes, toothpaste, laundry detergent and undergarments from the volunteers.
She said the service project was a better indicator of Islam than anything she hears about Muslims on television.
“They’re doing what’s in their heart,” she said.
“If everybody stopped judging one another, they’d be a lot better off. It’d be a better world, I’m telling you.”
David Byrd, 60, thanked Muslim volunteers, telling them he would pray for them before going to sleep Sunday night.
“Keep on doing it,” he said.
“You’re going to get blessed, not from me, but from God.”