By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) – Muslims in Colorado joined a nationwide effort Saturday to feed those in need by packing and serving lunches at five different locations across Denver.
Their goal was to change any misguided perceptions about their community.
“I think it gives them a different sense,” said Iman Jodeh, a spokesperson for the Colorado Muslim Society and one of the volunteers. “Here are a group of people that I had a different impression of really reaching out, really coming out, doing this on their own accord.”
More than 100 volunteers came together to prepare and hand out sack lunches including fruit, vegetables, water, granola bars, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
They estimate more than 2,000 meals were given out across Denver.
“It’s events like this that really bring us together and really prove the true essence of being an American,” Jodeh said. “What it means to be an American and even more so what it means to be an American Muslim.”
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Planning began more than a month in advance for this event organized by Pious Projects at the national level.
“Feed The Hungry” asked communities across the country to sign volunteers up.
This was the first time it helped people in Denver. The non-profit saw this project as a way to help American Muslims connect with others in their own cities.
“We wanted to make sure that if anyone had a chance to ask a question, they had the chance to do that about Islam, or the Middle East, or politics,” said Jodeh. “Breaking bread together, through a sack lunch, it’s a great way to do it.”
Outside the Denver Public Library, volunteers of all ages were at one of the five locations handing out meals made in the morning.
They also served hot coffee to anyone that wanted a cup on a chilly day in downtown.
Many Muslims making up this group were teenagers and children.
They yelled “Free Lunch!” throughout the afternoon and held a sign, trying to attract the public.
The outreach made on this weekend comes at a time when many consider the nation more divisive than ever in recent history.
Muslims have been concerned about intolerance or bigotry directed at their community.
Organizers at the event say they’re in one of the best climates across the country.
“I think we are very fortunate here in Colorado that we live in a very understanding state,” said Jodeh. “A tolerant and compassionate state.”
An attempt to help the hungry in Denver was also a chance to demonstrate an important tenant of Islam and help others see the similarities between that faith and this country.
“This is something that we do because it’s a part of our religion, giving back, being a pillar of our community, being a good example,” Jodeh explained. “That’s what it means to be a Muslim, and that’s what it means to be an American Muslim.”