By Karenna Oner, IRC Intern
The past five months have been far from normal. In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, community organizations have stepped up to support the millions of Americans under financial stress, developing creative responses to critical scenarios. In Silver Spring, a strong partnership formed between the IRC and the Muslim Community Center (MCC) in an effort to improve emergency assistance efforts. Throughout the past few months there has been a growing need for food and financial resources, especially among marginalized communities. Refugees face unique barriers to employment that hinder their economic independence, especially at a time when there is a major delay in processing work authorization documents. Given growing food and financial needs, the MCC was eager to provide IRC clients access to its food distribution and financial assistance programs.
The MCC originated 43 years ago as Maryland’s first mosque. Despite its religious affiliation, the MCC doubles as a community center with programs for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The pandemic has seen a notable increase to 50% non-Muslims being served. Ashraf Qureshi, the chairperson of the Social Services Committee, expressed the importance of religion as a motivation for philanthropy and emphasized that most services are inclusionary for anyone in need. The MCC’s flagship food assistance program exemplifies the organization’s commitment to individuals of all backgrounds. When the MCC learned that IRC clients could benefit from food distribution, they immediately offered their services. Since May 4th, MCC food distributions have served 68 IRC client families, with a total of 237 beneficiaries. IRC staff identified the families most in need of food and delivered the groceries to their apartments. Through MCC’s food distribution, IRC clients received a wide range of essential groceries to last them a week or more. Food included rice, oil, chicken, pasta, juices, canned goods and fruit.
In addition to the food distribution, MCC offered a generous donation of $4,000 in cash assistance to assist 10 families following the tradition of Zakat al-Fitr. Zakat al-Fitr is a donation taken for those in need a few days before the end of fasting in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The donations assisted families with food purchases and/or to cover other emergency expenses.
To further support refugees and the greater community, MCC runs a health clinic, a Refugee English program for single mothers and is opening a pantry filled with baby supplies. Mr. Qureshi emphasized that the people involved are what makes the work so rewarding, whether it be the tireless volunteers or the grateful recipients. MCC is always looking to recruit community members to its cause. If you are in need of assistance or looking to volunteer, you can find applications available on the MCC website.