Day for the Hungry: Mecca Center Hosts Zakat Foundation of America Volunteer Day

Willowbrook, IL – Zakat Foundation of America held another one of its signature Zakat Foundation of America Volunteer Days on January 26, this time in partnership with the Mecca Center where volunteers packed and delivered lunches for Chicago’s needy, homeless and elderly.

“Today was historic….We brought people from one the most affluent communities of (Greater) Chicago, and we allowed them to feel for those who are in need,” said Mecca Center Imam Tariq Musleh.

A whopping 300 young volunteers from the Center’s Mecca MVMT youth group surprised Zakat Foundation organizers, expecting about 100. They packed 500 lunches with 14 food items, from turkey and cheese sandwiches, to apples, chips, cookies, and water in a snappy 20 minutes.

“It was a beautiful moment to see so many people on a Friday night spending their time helping others,” said Yara Daoud, Zakat Foundation Outreach Coordinator. “Our volunteers are truly amazing!”

Organizers set up 14 stations in assembly line fashion. Youthful zeal to do good took it from there.

“Because you are here tonight, somebody will have a meal tomorrow,” Zakat Foundation Coordinator Abdelhamid Omran told the enthusiastic young packers.

In The Hands of the Hungry

[caption id="attachment_19018" align="alignright" width="401"]Zakat Foundation of America Volunteer Day Volunteers share a high five for hard work![/caption]

The next day, staff and volunteers headed out and put the lunch bags in the hands of hungry homeless on Chicago’s South Side, and low-income elderly residents at the historic Rosenwald Court Apartments in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

“This is one of our initiatives where we at Zakat Foundation really want to touch people who are closest to us…our neighbors in Chicagoland who are hungry, who are in need.”

A Zakat Foundation video on volunteering inspired youth at the event’s start. After the loud and motivated crowd finished the bagging, they prayed the Night Prayer and headed downstairs for a Mecca Center dinner. Families and friends, children and elders socialized and learned more about Zakat Foundation relief programs and services at home and abroad.

“I came to my local mosque to help out with a really, really great cause,” gushed Sameeha Martini. “I think it’s extraordinary that our masjid and Zakat Foundation are hosting these things and bringing awareness to youth.”

The Opportunity to Give Back

“We gave them the opportunity to actually give back to those who are in need,” said Musleh. “Somebody feels that nobody cares about them but because of what you are doing right now, they’re going to feel special,” he told the lunch-packing youth.

[caption id="attachment_19005" align="alignleft" width="386"]Zakat Foundation of America Volunteer Day Shaikh Aly of Mecca Center wears a Zakat Foundation of America volunteer vest after giving a speech on the prevalence of hunger and homelessness.[/caption]

The Saturday distribution, guided by Zakat Foundation staff, also had cultural value. Built by 1920s philanthropist Julius Rosenwald as an elite but affordable residence for African American notables, Rosenwald Apartments’ 420-odd units originally housed celebrities and athletes who came to Chicago, including boxing champion Muhammad Ali, singer Nat King Cole, and hugely influential multifaceted producer and recording artist Quincy Jones, whose mother once managed the complex.

In the end, Friday’s youthful raucousness gave way to utter silence as Musleh asked the young people to close their eyes and imagine they were the less fortunate, and then led them in a heartfelt prayer to God for His mercy, help, and relief of the poor.

Sign up for our e-news alerts at to learn about the next Zakat Foundation of America Volunteer Day, or contact us to arrange one for your community. 

View photo gallery of this event.