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MLK Day unites metro Atlantans in missions to serve others

By David Pendered

The food and toiletries ICNA Relief plans to distribute to the homeless Monday in Downtown Atlanta represent the service organization’s recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and with it the chance to add to ICNA’s social services program.

INCA Relief, food line

On MLK Day 2021, ICNA Relief and Vegan Meals that Heal plan to distribute about 120 meals and bags of toiletries to the homeless. ICNA has operated a feeding program for years. Credit: ICNA Relief

On the MLK Day of Service, Islamic Circle of North America Relief is to partner with Vegan Meals that Heal, another non-profit, to serve about 120 hot meals to the homeless. A bag of toiletries and other items will accompany each serving. The meals may not be eaten on site, because of social distancing efforts related to the pandemic.

ICNA Relief’s program to feed the hunger is one of many commemorative services slated to continue Monday in metro Atlanta, despite the pandemic that has disrupted one of King’s central tenets – fellowship.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted communities to come together and be able to understand each other, and that’s something we observe through these programs,” Brother Abdul Basit, who organizes the local outreach efforts for ICNA Relief, said.

The hot meals to be provided Monday are a treat in this pandemic era, when prepackaged food has become the norm in order to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19. During its weekly feeding program that serves about 120 individuals, ICNA Relief has been handing out bags filled with packages of dry noodles and other food the homeless can save for later. The MLK holiday called for something special, according to Basit.

“We want to celebrate with the community,” Basit said. “People love the aroma of the food.”

The event is set for the Chevron station located at 336 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. This is the same location where ICNA Relief distributed on Dec. 20, 2021 a total of 150 winter supply kits that included blankets, socks, coats, scarves, and gloves, along with 100 hot meals to the homeless. Partners included Roswell Community Masjid, Helping the Community and Gwinnett Islamic Circle. ICNA Relief has been providing social services in metro Atlanta since about 2005, Basit said.

INCA, food distribution

ICNA Relief provided a feeding program for the homeless as one of the social services its offered in the area since about 2005. Credit: ICNA Relief

For the MLK Day event, Basit and others packed bags on Jan. 14. Inside the bags are toothpaste and toothbrushes, masks, various toiletry items and sanitary napkins for women. Also, a hoodie for warmth. Other items may be added to the bags – water, fruit and other items that are available and appropriate, Basit said.

The MLK Day of service is sometimes characterized as a reminder of service to “the least of these,” from the Christian New Testament. Basit observed that Islam, like Christianity, is an Abrahamic religion, and that the Qurʾān professes service in the community. INCA Relief’s feeding programs makes this notion manifest, Basit observed:

  • “Being able to help the homeless, and see these are individuals are like you and I, individuals who are going through a tough time. You see a guy who’s 35-years clean and can’t get up on his feet.
  • “We are providing food only one day at a time. At least at that particular time, they are happy. If they want to talk, we are open to talking. I ask, ‘How is it going for you Downtown? Are you able to stay under that bridge?’ Even though we may not notice it, they have built a community, they have built a community around them.”



David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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