• people dressed in yellow shirts moving bozes full of food

      Grocery give-away at the Mosque of San Gabriel (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      It’s a small building with a small congregation and a big heart.

      By Cheryl Cabot

      The Mosque of San Gabriel sits back from the street so it’s easy to miss as you drive along Las Tunas.

      Originally a house, the congregation purchased it in 1984, and received their license in 1987. Approximately 200 members come from San Gabriel, Alhambra, Rosemead, Temple City, Sierra Madre and Pasadena.

      An important part of their doctrine is community service and helping those in need. The Mosque of San Gabriel is the living embodiment of that belief. They have supported Union Station in Pasadena since 1990 with food and other necessities for the homeless. Recently, they have brought their benevolence closer to home. They have provided much-needed supplies for the food bank at La Casa de San Gabriel.

      Grocery give-away

      With the pandemic and stay-at-home order, they saw there was a greater need for distributing food as well as non-food items.  In April, in conjunction with ICNA Relief USA organization, they had their first grocery give-away at the Mosque, handing out 85 large bags of groceries which included bread, juice, chicken, rice, sauces, onions and potatoes as well as packages of socks.

      The guiding force in achieving all this largesse is Rick Khan, a long-time member of the Mosque. Although the entire congregation is involved, he credits his “team” with putting their programs in action, including fund raising, shopping and distribution.

      The success of their grocery give-away showed Khan that there was a need to help families in San Gabriel. He contacted Rebecca Perez, Director of Community Services, which coordinates and distributes meals to seniors, to see if they could partner with the City and help in some way. Perez told him that with so many seniors staying home during the pandemic, they could use help with the senior meals program.

      people helping deliver food

      (L-R) CM Jason Pu, Rick Khan, Mayor Denise Menchaca (Photo – Cheryl cabot)

      Senior meals program

      According to the latest update, they are now delivering meals, two lunch box meals and three frozen meals to 250 seniors. Due to the increase in meal deliveries since the pandemic Community Services staff have been delivering meals twice a week.

      When Khan heard that only cold lunches and frozen meals were being distributed, due to time and money constraints, with no hot meals, he felt that was a need the Mosque could fill.

      Khan called his Mosque team members and they jumped into action. Some members reached out for funds, others ordered the hot food and still others volunteered to hand out the meals. Donations from members of the Mosque pay for the hot meals.

      “This is what our faith teaches,” Khan said. “I feel fortunate that we are getting to do this.”

      They partnered with ICNA Relief to bring bags of groceries to be distributed along with the meals.

      The Mission Playhouse parking lot was reserved and flyers were delivered to the seniors. Cars were lined up a half an hour before the food was to be distributed. No walk-ups allowed. Two take-out containers with chicken, salsa, rice and salad were placed in each trunk along with a bag of groceries including fruit and non-perishables. All volunteers wore gloves and masks and thanked the seniors for coming. Staff kept the traffic moving and within a half an hour, 100 meals and bags of groceries were distributed. No one left without food.

      “The Mosque of San Gabriel has been extremely generous in providing food donations as well non-perishable food items to our older adults. Their staff provided hot food distribution on two separate days with 200 hot meals, as a way to give back to the community and assist in these distressing times. We are extremely appreciative of their generosity and the partnership we have established.” Lucy Hokobian, Community Services Manager, said on behalf of the City of San Gabriel.

      platsic bags full of food for delivery

      Hot meals waiting to be delivered in San Gabriel (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

      Boxes of fresh fruit & gallons of milk

      More recently, on Saturday, June 22, the Mosque partnered with ICNA Relief USA again to provide 146 boxes of fresh fruit, 240 gallons of milk, large tins of tea and large jars of olives. The food is purchased from Interfresh Farmers to Families, part of the USDA Feeding Programs, as well as from Restaurant Depot.

      The Mosque of San Gabriel provided the location, and the volunteers and ICNA provided the groceries. Cars were lined up down the street and around the block even before the boxes were unloaded. It took an hour to set up four tables of boxes and about half an hour to give it all away.

      “The Mosque is working tirelessly to alleviate hunger in our neighborhoods by regularly donating hot meals and food, including fresh produce, to local food pantries while also volunteering with the distribution. I appreciate their spirit of service and call to action to give to those in need,” said San Gabriel Mayor Denise Menchaca.

      The outreach is a family affair for Rick Khan. His two adult children, daughter Sadia Khan and son Haseeb Khan, have been helping their parents with the various service programs since they followed along as toddlers.

      “Our parents have set a good example for us, and we have just followed their example,” said Haseeb. “I know that my dad underplays how much he does in organizing community outreach.”

      “So much of what is done is him (Khan) doing it on his own, meeting people and finding a need,” Sadia added.

      Rick and the Mosque of San Gabriel have even bigger ideas in store for the City. They want to establish their own food bank at the Mosque as well as continue to help support La Casa de San Gabriel’s food bank. The hot food program for seniors was so successful they plan to continue as long as it is needed.

      Mosque of San Gabriel and its members will continue to serve the community wherever they find a need. When asked why they do it, member Yusuf Wadalawala said, “Someday I might need a handout. What goes around comes around.”

      people in blue shirts deliver food to the trunk of a car

      Helping deliver food (Photo – Cheryl Cabot)

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      1. Sarah says:

        What an excellent article. This is the type of good news that is incredibly powerful and heartwarming to see as times get more challenging. Thank you for sharing this example of community!

        • Cheryl Cabot says:

          Thank you Sarah. Among all the chaos we are living with right now, it is nice to see the generosity and kindness of others. San Gabriel is indeed a special place.

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