A couple of hundred people had filled the parking lot of Masjid As-Sabur by 10 a.m. on a recent Sunday.
The mosque was celebrating Day of Dignity, an event led by the Islamic Relief USA organization. Mosques around the country select one day a year to provide food, school supplies, hygiene products, clothing, blankets and medical care for the less fortunate, according to the organization’s website.
Participants don’t have to be of Islamic faith, mosque director of outreach Ahmad Ade said.
Masjid As-Sabur, just north of downtown Las Vegas, has been holding the event in October since Day of Dignity was established about 10 years ago, Ade said.
About 100 volunteers — Muslim and non-Muslim — assisted, including three students from Las Vegas Academy who are members of the schools’ coexistence club. Yazmin Andara, 15, said Day of Dignity fell in line with the club’s initiative.
“The purpose of this event is to bring the community together and to help others in need,” Andara said. “The media portrays Muslims as terrorists, so I think it’s important that we show that we’re not. It makes me angry and sad that some people don’t take the time to learn about our religion and learn about these events, because we’re really peaceful.”
She said she brought two members from the coexistence club with her so she could show them what the Islamic faith really is.
Andara said about 400 people attended the event last year, and that although this year’s event had fewer people, the impact was still great.
This year, the mosque also collaborated with churches of other faiths, including a Latter-day Saints church based in Salt Lake City that shipped out hygiene kits for the event. Ikea furniture store donated bags.
“If you’re homeless you generally lose your stuff once every three months (due to sweeps),” Ade said. “Even though we do this every year, it’s not like they still have the jackets that we gave them last year.”
Erick, who declined to provide his last name, said he appreciated these items specifically.
“They gave us things that we need and that we don’t always get,” he said. “The (long-sleeve) shirt is pretty cool ‘cause it’s thick, so it’s something that you can wear in the winter. Also, the beanies.”
Valley Hospital Medical Center Dr. Shehryar Saghir, who has been attending the mosque for more than 10 years, got involved in 2006 when he hosted a free medical clinic outside the mosque for about two years. He then began hosting a clinic at the Day of Dignity event. He brought social workers, a cardiologist and general medicine nurses this year.
“Health is vital,” Saghir said. “A lot of people have medical problems, but they don’t have insurance or the resources (they need). They don’t know where to go, so this event is not only that we provide basic treatment; we also provide awareness.”
Although Day of Dignity is a one-day event, Masjid As-Sabur regularly serves homeless people downtown, Ade said. After their service at 1 p.m. Fridays, members pass out bags filled with groceries, he said. There is a library in the mosque’s school where people can borrow books, and if they write a report on it, they can keep it, Ade said.
Imam Fateen said that they hope to expand their services by bringing back their GED program and providing mental health and educational workshops on preventative health care. He also plans to set up a P.O. Box at the mosque for homeless people to use, he said.
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