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Islamic Center L.I. pantry manager receives award

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Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman held a virtual award ceremony on May 20 as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in which Waheed Siddiqui, the coordinator of Westbury’s Islamic Center of Long Island food pantry, was among the award recipients.

Siddiqui has been a volunteer for the Islamic Center of Long Island’s Board of Trustees for nine years. He has been a member of the center for more than 26 years.

“Similar to the credence of the Islamic Center of Long Island, Mr. Siddiqui believes it is critically important to be involved in your community and give back wherever you can,” Schnirman said. “In 2020, during the height of the Covid pandemic, the Islamic Center community took note of families that faced the devastation of not having enough food to eat.”

A full-service food pantry was launched by the Islamic Center of Long Island to serve those who struggled to put food on the table amid the financial crisis that paired with the pandemic. Saddiqui has been serving as the pantry’s manager, a volunteer position. 

This undertaking includes coordinating every function of the pantry from picking up the food from Island Harvest, organizing pantry shelves, bagging the food for recipients and distributing the food to local residents three days a week. The pantry serves 200 families a week.

Saddiqui said he appreciated being honored by the Comptroller’s Office. “I believe we need to give to the community,” he said. “It’s been a humble experience to see the people we could help and I’m honored to receive this award.”

Other award recipients included Minsun Kim, the founder of the Long Island Conservatory of Music, Guodong Zhang, the president of the Long Island Chinese and American Association, and student organizers of Rally Against Asian Hate.

Dr. Gary Mar, the founding director of Stony Brook University’s Asian American Center Bridge, also attended the ceremony as a guest speaker to discuss the achievements of Americans and Pacific Islanders throughout history on the island and across the country. He also discussed the struggles faced by the community over the years.

“Here in the comptroller’s Office, a key focus of ours is always promoting and understanding the most up to date data so that policy makers can form decisions on how to better serve our communities,” Schnirman said. “We put together a series over the last several years of reports under the theme of ‘This is Nassau.’”

Schnirman said his office has been highlighting census data to display who makes up the county in the present and the future so policy makers can support and celebrate Nassau’s population. The office, Schnirman added, has also been releasing fact sheets to enhance transparency and on May 20, a fact sheet about Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Nassau County was released by the office [see sidebar].

According to this data, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up 9.7 percent of Nassau County’s population, a 32.6 percent increase from 2010 to 2019. Almost 10 percent of the Asian American and Pacific Islanders living in Nassau County are veterans and 15,866 businesses in the county are Asian-owned.

“There are so many other ways that the AAPI community contributes to making Nassau County a great place,” Schnirman said. “I’d be remise to not mention the violence, on a more serious level, and the hate that has been directed towards this community. We stand together against it and we will not tolerate it.”

According to a recent national report from Stop AAPI Hate from March 19, 2020 to March 31, 2021 the number of hate incidents reported to the center increased by 74 percent.

“This took the form of verbal harassment, physical assault and civil rights violations, online harassment and more,” Schnirman said.

And tragically, he added, these incidents often go under-reported. “We got our work cut out for us,” he said. “We must do better. We just can’t allow this.”

To watch the full ceremony and to learn more about the award recipients, visit www.facebook.com/JackForNassau/