Fighting hate and hunger: Islamic Relief USA gives out turkeys

Islamic Relief USA gives out turkeys

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — People lined up outside the Barakah Muslim Charity Center on Thursday night. Volunteers gave away more than 300 free turkeys and fixings to anyone in need.

It’s the second year in a row Islamic Relief USA has provided the free turkeys for this giveaway — and based on Thursday’s response, it’s just what the community needed.

Giving back speaks a universal language.

“It’s a blessing itself, and it’s also a blessing for the people that provided this for us,” said Steffon Johnson, who joined the line wrapped around the center for a free Thanksgiving turkey. “We want to give thanks for that, and just be thanks for all things. There’s a lot of starving people in the world,”

It’s more than just a meal. Charity finance chair Alma Omerhodzic says the free turkey giveaway is proof that peace is always possible.

“Hate has become an accepted thing in our society. We have to fight it, right? I think the best way to fight it is to actually have people meet each other,” Omerhodzic said.

The war in Gaza, combined with data released by the FBI in October, show a spike in hate crimes across the U.S., with 11,634 reported in 2022 compared to 10,840 the previous year.

It’s hate that Omerhodzic hopes to cut through anyway she can, through good food and conversation.

“We kind of realize we aren’t that different. We may have different traditions. we may have different religion. But at the end of the day, we really have the same worries, all of us,” Omerhodzic said.

It’s why Cassandra Robinson says the impact will stretch well beyond Thanksgiving dinner.

“They serve the community well. It’s black, white, Chinese, Puerto Rican, it doesn’t matter. They help everybody. Whatever it is you need, they’ll come and help you,” Robinson said.

In addition to turkeys, the charity gave away sides and all the fixings Thursday.