NEW YORK, NY (September, 2010) – The Islamic Circle of North America kept busy this Ramadan, with chapters in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington D.C. supplying backpacks and school supplies to families in need. ICNA’s Back to School Giveaway garnered much attention—nearly 5,500 school bags were distributed over the course of the month.
Omar Ranginwala, Outreach Director for ICNA NY, explained the sentiment behind the numerous giveaways. “Whether or not they’re Muslim we need to care for our neighbors—our duty extends to those who live next door as well as those who live across the globe.” The events were open to all, and, along with providing backpacks and school supplies to struggling families, presented them with a more lucid picture of Islam.
The Back to School Giveaway was first held in Yonkers, NY, and is now in its third year. This year’s Yonkers event was so popular that the line of attendees spanned an entire block. According to Ranginwala, volunteers handed out 500 school bags filled with notebooks, pens, pencils, scissors and crayons at this location alone. Other giveaways were equally as popular—though stocked with hundreds of bags, many locations ran out of supplies by the day’s end.
Jeanine Lee, a resident of Mount Vernon, heard of the local giveaway and hurried over. As a mother of three, ages 5, 11 and 15, Lee explained that purchasing school supplies could become a burden. “These kinds of events are important because we have so many kids that are not fortunate [enough to buy new supplies]. The first day of school can be stressful when you’re faced with a long list of [expensive] supplies. I have three kids and it’s hard for me,” she said, thankful for ICNA’s assistance in this necessary but costly expense.
Lee was not alone in her appreciation of the events. After chatting with volunteers and receiving school bags for two of her children, a Brooklyn resident proclaimed, “I wish I had a Muslim neighbor.” In Sheepshead Bay, NY, attendees thanked volunteers for their efforts and brushed off the negative portrayal of Muslims in the media. “It really doesn’t matter [what people want me to think about Muslims],” said one father. “If you’re doing something good for others, I’ll support you. And this is good. This is really good.”