One man, an Uber driver from a community near Valley Stream, was in a car accident and lost his job, which left him wondering how he would find money to feed his children. Another, a woman from Queens living in a shelter with her two children, was unsure where they would find their next meal. Similarly, a single mother from Center-each did not know how she would feed her five children.
The situation for the three families changed for the better, however, when they discovered the food pantry established on Aug. 31 at Valley Stream’s Masjid Hamza through a partnership between the mosque and the New Hyde Park-based non-profit Islamic Circle of North America, according to Shumaila Noor, ICNA’s outreach coordinator.
“When I spoke to those three families and so many other families who need food, I was in shock because if you were to walk by those people in their neighborhoods, oftentimes you can never tell what they are actually going through,” Noor said. “There are a lot of needs in this world, more than we recognize, and we are filling in a gap or building a bridge by helping meet the needs of those who are truly in need.”
The pantry is the first that ICNA has established on Long Island. In the weeks since its opening, it has helped feed nearly 400 families, Noor said. It is open every Monday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Noor oversees all the organization’s outreach programs, and she volunteers at the new food pantry every Monday. As a Deer Park resident and a mother of three, Noor said that helping others has long been what she wanted to do to teach her children sympathy for others who are less fortunate.
“I’m making a small change, and I’m part of something bigger,” she said. “The best part of helping run the food pantry is the heartwarming feeling of seeing everyone come together to help those in need.”
Before the food pantry partnership, Noor said, representatives of Masjid Hamza and ICNA had worked together on other charity projects. Whenever community members or congregants needed shelter, for instance, Masjid Hamza referred them to one of ICNA’s transitional homes.
“During the pandemic, we wanted to partner with Masjid Hamza because we saw they were a very strong presence in the community and we wanted to give back,” Noor said, noting that the mosque is the first that ICNA has partnered with in Nassau County. “Each family that we serve takes home up to 40 pounds of food every Monday, and our pantry is different because we cater to ethnic demographics with ethnic food, in addition to other foods.”
Masjid Hamza volunteers said they have been surprised by the number of donations they have received to support the pantry.
“There was always a need for a food pantry in the community, but the Covid-19 pandemic heightened that need, and it’s great to see the smile on people’s faces when we help them through this tough time,” said Valley Streamer Ruhee Kapadia, Masjid Hamza’s outreach coordinator who helped organize the pantry. “We wanted to create an environment where anyone can come and get food, regardless of religion, color or race.”
“People were panicking with this pandemic going on, and we didn’t want people to go to sleep hungry,” said Valley Streamer Noshi Ahmed, another volunteer who helped with the pantry’s opening. “It makes me feel so good to see so many people lined up every Monday to get food.”
To donate food or make a money donation to the Masjid Hamza food pantry, email email@example.com or icnarelief.org/donate.