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Arab Americans Give Back This Thanksgiving

posted on: Nov 25, 2009

For most metro-Detroit families, Thanksgiving is an assurance of plentiful turkey, side dishes, and pastries. For other families however, the holiday is a reminder of the challenges to provide a good meal in a declining economy.

Despite the influx of struggling households, Arab American civic organizations and religious institutions have been quick to respond— finding a multitude of ways to give back to the community this Thanksgiving.

Just this past Friday, the Chaldean Federation, in conjunction with the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers (AFPD) coordinated a “Turkey Drop-Off” in which they disseminated 2,500 turkeys to need based families in the Dearborn-Detroit area.

Over 30 volunteers worked tirelessly to raise money from Chaldean organizations and businesses, followed by long hours of packaging the orders. “This year, we were fortunate enough to provide each family a bag filled with bread, stuffing, pop, and chips, in addition to the turkey” said program organizer, Dr. Jacoub Mansour.

Other civic organizations doing their part include the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) and the Arab American & Chaldean Council (ACC). This year, both entities have provided turkey to those in need, yet they emphasize the importance of “giving” all year round.

Special Projects Director of ACC, Bob Ghannam, says “We see the importance of providing continuously, so we hold drives all year in which we collect and redistribute clothes, furniture, and toys.” Similarly, throughout the year, ACCESS has provided assistance in terms of food stamps and vouchers, emergency rent/mortgage, and utility bills.

Arab American religious institutions are additionally playing an active role in providing for the holiday. This year, Islam’s holiest of days, “Eid Al Adha” (Holiday of Sacrifice), coincidentally takes place the day following Thanksgiving. Therefore, Arab American Muslims are finding many reasons to give back to the community.

The Islamic Center of America- Dearborn, in association with local charity organization Zaman International, has provided a generous number turkeys along with complimentary dishes to needy families. In the next few days, they hope to dispense “Food Boxes” to over 200 people— each box supplying 70 pounds of food and condiments.

Joining their ranks is the American Muslim Center of Dearborn Heights. About 40 members of the mosque recently volunteered to ration and disseminate cuts of lamb meat (special for sacrifice) to disadvantaged households, irrespective of their religion or race.

In the past two weeks, mosque members have also donated their time to assisting at soup kitchens and organizing clothing drives. Imam Mohammed Mardini, the mosque’s religious leader, understands the importance of volunteerism, “We must be an active part of our community in order to uplift those around us and better the community at large.”

Echoing Imam Mardini’s sentiments, Deacon Jim King of St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church- Livonia, says “It is this type of work we should be doing, not only as a religious community, but as a larger community who leans on each other.” St. Mary’s, comprised predominantly of Palestinian Christians, is pleased to extend its reach.

Deacon King and the church’s teen youth group have organized the “9th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner Celebration” which will host 250-300 non-church members. It will serve those in need of a hot meal, or simply longing for good company.

In addition to the above mentioned, there are a whole host of Arab-American civic organizations, mosques, and churches who have organized support programs this holiday. Despite an increase in economic hardships, Arab Americans aren’t shying away this Thanksgiving. Instead, they are stepping up to the challenge and stepping in to help.

Ameera David
Arab Detroit