Bringing Thanksgiving Charity to Our Community

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Often, when we think of Thanksgiving family dinner, the image of Norman Rockwell’s Turkey Feast comes to mind. But for many, that image is not realistic. This year, as fears of a recession loom, The Hill reported that the average cost of a family Thanksgiving dinner is up 20% over last year, which places a further strain on families that might already be struggling.

That is why on a cold Saturday morning, Zakat Foundation of America staff Selma Demir and Lyla Ramirez drove a vehicle of frozen turkeys to the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago. With the assistance of volunteers, a local business owner, and community leader Devonte Boston, they set about distributing frozen turkeys. 

Zakat Foundation of America distributed 160 turkeys, between 14 and 18 pounds, to families in the Englewood neighborhood. People lined up around the block before the distribution started. An older gentleman, around 70, pushed his cart to Devonte Boston’s store, TGI, to get a turkey for his family. At one point, a CTA bus driver stopped her bus to ask about the turkey handout, at which point Zakat Foundation of America staff brought her and her only passenger turkeys.

Selma reflected on the distribution, saying, “Something as simple as food makes them so grateful. And seeing how grateful they are makes you want to continue to do more and more.”

And that is precisely what happened. 

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, as the sun was setting and the evening chill was rolling in, Zakat Foundation of America staff started on their traditional “stop and drop” of hot meals to unhoused people in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. 

Zakat Foundation of America, working with Chicago’s own Jamila’s Catering, obtained 65 hot meals consisting of chicken, green beans, sweet potato, mac and cheese, and cornbread. The meals were loaded into a van and taken to places around Pilsen, where they could be distributed to those in need.

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Selma stressed that it is not simply about handing out hot meals, but about going to neighborhoods that some might consider dangerous and delivering aid to those in need with dignity. She went on to say that when we give into labels of people and neighborhoods, some people in need may not get the help they need and deserve. 

Lyla summed it up beautifully by saying, "seeing a project like hot meals to unhoused people go from a concept on paper to the joy on people's faces showed me how important projects like this are. For me and others, we often don't think twice about needing something from the store, but something as simple as a turkey changed someone's whole holiday." 

And as Abu Hurairah (RA) narrated, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, "Whoever relieves a Muslim of a burden from the burdens of the world, Allah will relieve him of a burden from the burdens on the Day of Judgement. And whoever helps ease a difficulty in the world, Allah will grant him ease from a difficulty in the world and in the Hereafter."