Mallory Terry, who lives on a Northwest Baltimore block in Upton where half the rowhouses are vacant, wasn't expecting to see a throng of people collecting food and clothing outside the Ul-Haqq mosque when she took her two sons for a walk yesterday.
After pausing briefly to ask if the bonanza was open to anyone, she collected apples, water, soda, spaghetti, corn and two bags of clothes, blankets and toiletries. Then she graciously thanked several volunteers.
Terry, 23, said she isn't in dire straits, but as a mother of two young sons, she takes all the help she can get.
"We need more things like this to help the community," she said, before calling out for her 4-year-old son Josiah to return to her side. "A lot of people around here don't have enough to buy food and can't get enough to eat."
Several dozen volunteers provided about 600 people with food, clothing and health screenings yesterday as part of the seventh annual Humanitarian Day, in which Muslims in 19 cities are expected to feed 25,000 over the weekend in an effort to serve others during the holy month of Ramadan. The national event was coordinated by Islamic Relief, a global charity. Food was donated by Whole Foods and other supplies were prepared and donated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Local organizers emphasized their intent "to preserve human dignity" by not turning anyone away from the food laid out on several rectangular tables. About 20 women and children served the line buffet-style through midafternoon.
"All of us are just a few steps away from being homeless or in need," said Karim Amin, who coordinated Baltimore's Humanitarian Day. "We just want to help people get to the next step in life."
He added that the event allowed Muslims to participate in an important aspect of Islam.
"As a Muslim, I believe that giving things away is a part of life," he said. "We live for God, we don't live for this world."
Karim Amin's sister Nazaahah, who was on hand to focus on women who came to the mosque, said she was happy to bring the students she teaches at the Islamic Community School so that they could help the needy during Ramadan.
During the holy month, the ninth on the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk and perform good works, marking the month in which God is said to have revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.
"This was the month when the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was most generous," said Nazaahah Amin. "Each good deed we do, the blessings are multiplied."
Another important component of the event, here and elsewhere, were free blood pressure and diabetes screenings offered by local clinics, as well as information on living a healthy lifestyle.
Asma Hanif, a nurse practitioner who works at the Al-Nisaa health center, said she was thankful they offer people important health care advice in addition to food and supplies.
"Hopefully," she said, "events like this will bring about more awareness so that government officials will be more inclined to come together and help those in need."