Members of the Dawoodi Bohra community helping to pack food with Todd Lipa of CARES of Farmington Hills.

The Detroit News

As the pandemic hits pocketbooks and cupboards across southeast Michigan, many religious and community-centered groups are stepping up: launching initiatives and giveaways as well as extending their efforts to fill gaps, boost underserved areas and support workers.

With unemployment numbers rising and economic uncertainty looming over the region, some benefactors expect to keep up their work long after the state’s stay-at-home orders end.

Coinciding with a larger global effort, Metro Detroit’s community of the Dawoodi Bohra, a branch of Islam, has pushed to expand its reach since the pandemic emerged.

“Our leader, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, encouraged Dawoodi Bohra communities around the world to assist, in whatever way we can, our fellow neighbors who may be hungry or unable to support themselves and their families during this crisis . . . we’ve continued our partnership with CARES of Farmington Hills, which has done a fantastic job supporting families across Metro Detroit.”

Between March and early May, members said they donated an estimated 10,000 pounds of food to the nonprofit CARES of Farmington Hills to support vulnerable families. They also packed more than 700 bags of food there to distribute, served hot meals to 110 families and sewed face masks to donate to medical staff, said outreach coordinator Mustansir Saifuddin. “It was amazing how our community came together.”

Unity was the goal for regional Muslims, who have been unable to worship in person during their holy month of Ramadan.

The time usually revolves around charity, but with need especially acute in some neighborhoods, members at the Islamic Center of Detroit opted to serve hot meals on as many as six days a week, Al-Hanooti said.

On Fridays, through partnerships with area groups, they have also been distributing food baskets with staples to hundreds, he said. “We cannot stop it at this point. … Many people are having financial challenges.”

Throughout Ramadan, mosques and community centers across Metro Detroit have contributed thousands of meals and food to people, said Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, board chairman for the Michigan Muslim Community Council.

The financial difficulties resulting from the outbreak have prompted drives such as a recent one at the Al-Huda mosque in Dearborn. Such events, he said, “will be an ongoing thing until the need is filled and things are looking better.”

International Gospel Center, a church in Ecorse, has launched a weekly food distribution at least through fall and possibly longer, said Marvin Miles, its pastor for more than 20 years. On Wednesday, helpers handed out about 1,000 boxes at the curbside. Other giveaways also are planned.

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