In April, 130 people gathered in St. John’s United Church of Christ’s fellowship hall to taste traditional Syrian cooking – tabouleh, stuffed grape leaves, beef croquettes called kibbeh — made by Syrian refugee Madiha Algothany.
So many people clamored for the $25 tickets that members of the Catonsville church said they had to turn some away.
Leah Hayes, a member who drove Algothany to shop for supplies, was daunted by the size of the task. Nervous as the number of guests kept growing, Hayes asked Algothany, who appeared calm, if she needed help.
“She looked at me in the sweetest way, and she said to me, 'You drive. I cook,’ ” Hayes recalled. "It was like [she was...