DALLAS – A Muslim charity distributed thousands of survival kits for the homeless inside a Dallas shelter Saturday morning, offering them a chance to survive winter cold and preserving a key Islamic charity tradition.
“We’re Muslim, but we care about everyone,” Urooj Waheed told Dallas News at the Austin Street Shelter on Saturday, December 3.
“We’re here to help you guys and let you know you’re not alone.”
Volunteers of all ages gathered in an effort to break barriers and give back to the community.
Waheed and his wife, Sobia Waheed, were among volunteers in Allen who packed the survival kits that contained bottled water, socks, deodorant, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a washcloth and a blanket.
The donation was organized by Ma’ruf Dallas, a nonprofit designed to help local refugees, at four sites: Allen, Valley Ranch, Colleyville and Fort Worth.
About 200 volunteers in all assembled the donations, which amounted to about $10,000.
The effort first kicked off nine years ago by Sobia Ali, the main coordinator for the event, from her home.
In the first year, 15 women bagged about 200 lunches.
Her efforts are not restricted to winter. Last Ramadan, in July, she and other volunteers provided 450 sandwiches to a shelter.
This year, she collaborated with Mar’uf to expand their reach.
“As a Muslim it’s my responsibility,” Ali said. “We’re taught to help anyone in need, Muslim or not.”
For many Muslim volunteers, helping those in need is a blessing from God.
Saher Sayed, 15, recalls an encounter at the shelter a year ago, when a man who received a donation started to cry and said he never learned about Islam but would visit a mosque.
Apart from helping the needy, there is no agenda behind the gesture, said president of Ma’ruf, Faiez Usman.
“There’s no such thing as Muslim issues,” Usman said. There are issues. Every issue needs its attention.”
Families delivered the donations to The Bridge and the Austin Street Shelter, a facility that is packed with more than 400 homeless.
Rodney Jackson, who has been homeless for five years, was one of about a dozen men who waited outside the Austin Street Shelter, huddled in jackets.
“I’m real happy to know somebody cares about us,” he said.
Terry Patrick, who was also waiting outside, said there was more grace on display there than at other shelters.
“It ain’t always like this,” a grateful Patrick said as he picked up his survival kit.
Lining to offer survival kits, Muslim volunteers, including children as young as 5, gave out 400 bags to those staying at the shelter. A stream of “thank you” and “God bless you” followed.
Amaar Huda, an eight-year-old who helped distribute bags, said he “felt grateful because he was helping needy people.”
Handing out donations, Urooj Waheed took the children aside to debrief.
“We have to ask ourselves: Why did Allah give us so much? We didn’t do anything to deserve it. It’s a blessing Allah gives you,” Waheed told the children.
“What we did should make you feel good but it shouldn’t be something you brag about. We should be doing more.”