Interfaith Partners from the Islamic Society of Evansville Bolster United Caring Services During Pandemic

Volunteers from the Islamic Society of Evansville prepare and served dinner at United Caring Services.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many CHHSM agencies that provide food, shelter, and other services to homeless persons and lower-income individuals are without their normal contingent of volunteers. But this has created a benefit: to compensate, CHHSM members across the country have forged new partnerships in their local communities. One example is United Caring Services (UCS), based in Evansville, Ind.

UCS found volunteers both among its own clientele and in community groups. The Islamic Society of Evansville (ISE) was one of the many that stepped in to help.

“We regularly volunteers at United Caring Services monthly,” says Jahanara Qayum of ISE. “We prepare and serve a dinner on the first Friday of every month. We also serve breakfast on Christmas morning, and donate meals to the women’s shelter at [UCS’] Ruth’s House.”

The Islamic Society of Evansville has members from more than 26 countries and consists of more than 150 families. It has a long-standing reputation of being a hardworking, loving community that looks out for its neighbors. Apart from UCS, it runs a mobile food pantry and an association to provide medical care at no cost for uninsured persons.

Thanks to ISE, and others, says Krista Board, UCS’ director of people and programs, “UCS never closed and never stopped serving.”

Qayum says that even ISE volunteers who could not physically show up to serve meals dropped off needed items, arranged to have food catered in, and served as advocates for UCS in the larger community.

For ISE members, the reason to volunteer is two-fold. “During the pandemic, we knew many volunteers were unable to come, which would drastically reduce UCS’s ability to serve meals. Through the support of our membership, we were able to provide multiple meals a week consistently,” Qayum adds.

But the more important reason is simply that it is the faith of ISE’s community that calls them to serve. “As Muslims, we firmly believe supporting our neighbors is our inherent duty based on the teaching of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him): ‘If even one member of our community suffers, it is as if all of mankind is suffering,’” she says. “It is also a great opportunity to educate the youth on how to serve and care for others.

For UCS, the Islamic Society volunteers have been life savers. “ISE has been an integral partner with UCS to help us fulfill our mission of providing values-based, low barrier, sustainable, and high quality homeless shelters, services, and solutions,” says Board. “Our vision of being a place where individuals, organizations and agencies collaboratively create a community of caring relies solely on such partnerships to help improve the lives of other people in our community.”

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