HERNDON, VIRGINIA —
Every Thursday afternoon during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, hundreds of people flock to Herndon High School, in the Virginia.
A hall has been converted into a market, but there are no transactions here. Everything is free.
It is “Food Boost,” an annual free food distribution run by the “Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help,” or FAITH, a grassroots organization founded by members of the local Muslim community.
"It’s in Ramadan because FAITH social services employs everybody and serves everybody but we are driven by Islamic principles," said Somayyah Ghariana, who heads the group's Food Boost Committee. "So due to that we like to let the greater community here in America know that when we fast, it’s not just about us. It’s actually about giving to everybody around us."
Just like the recipients, staff members and volunteers come from various faiths and backgrounds. Amit Ubala, a Hindu, has been volunteering for the past three years.
"I believe everybody’s there. Last year we also have people from other faiths, too. So I think it’s a joint effort," Ubala said. "Once they started, everybody’s jumping in. I hope a lot more people donate and we have this event other than just in Ramadan. At least once a month or all over the year and do it on different locations, too."
At “Food Boost,” there is no screening to receive assistance. As long as supplies are available, residents may receive staple food items such as cooking oil, rice, sugar, fresh fruits and vegetables.
"I like it, every year, it’s good for family, it’s very important not only for me but for everybody," says Food Boost recipient Maria Mendoza.
Volunteers come from all walks of life, including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
Mana, a Girl Scout from the local Muslim Society Adams Center, says the Ramadan fast is no excuse for not helping out.
"I don’t think being tired is an excuse. We’re here to help everyone however way we can and I think Ramadan is the best time because of the rewards we’re also getting," she said.
The food drive began in the trunk of a car 10 years ago. Now, “Food Boost” serves more than 500 people weekly and will continue its efforts to make a difference in this community.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.