Community benefits as Khaan Foundation, 100 Black Men, Leak and Sons, Nation of Islam work together to offer hundreds of free coats, meals and masks
CHICAGO—Grateful residents of the South Shore neighborhood and beyond visited the National Center of the Nation of Islam to receive a free coat, a healthy, prepackaged meal and a pack of face masks.
The Free Coat Give Away event organized by Eugene Khaan, founder of The Khaan Foundation and Muhammad’s Food Pantry, was a demonstration of the appreciation he has for the blessings in his life and a desire to help those in need in the community.
“I did this to celebrate Saviours’ Day by giving back to the (South Shore) community I grew up in. We are taught that to whom much is given much is required. I have been very blessed. I have always felt that I owe my God, Allah, and my people a great deal and this is my latest installation on paying that debt,” said Mr. Khaan. Saviours’ Day is an annual Nation of Islam celebration.
The day concluded with 1,500 pre-packaged dinners, including 150 bowls of bean soup produced by Nation of Islam’s women, 300 dinners to the residents of Pacific Garden Mission Shelter for the homeless, 200 meals to students at the University of Illinois Chicago campus and nearly 600 brand new, high quality coats and 5,000 masks distributed.
The Feb. 27 event brought together a variety of businesses to help make it possible. Along with Mr. Khaan’s wife, daughter, son and sister was the Nation of Islam leadership in Chicago, 100 Black Men of Chicago, Leak and Sons Funeral Home, and Bean Soup Media, LLC.
“The energy that Brother Khaan brought us, telling us about his desire and the need; when you have people in the community that put themselves out there to do for others, it’s an easy sell. You want to help them, because they are out there on the front lines trying to make things happen,” said Charles Walton, executive director of 100 Black Men of Chicago.
His organization not only volunteered the day of, but also brought college students to help. 100 Black Men also connected The Khaan Foundation with the supplier of the prepackaged meals. “We have to leverage our relationships for the benefit of the community,” Mr. Walton added.
“We consider this a health and wellness issue and we are happy to collaborate,” added 100 Black Men of Chicago board chairman Carl Tutt, also in attendance. “We have to start coming together and not operating in silos. There is power in our collective talents and we have to start acting like that.”
Another big supporter of the event was Leak and Sons Funeral Home. “I’ve known Eugene for over 30 years. He’s my fraternity brother and my friend,” said funeral director Spencer Leak, Jr. “He and his family have always been the type of people to give back to the community and not look to get something back in return. During this time of Coivd with people losing jobs and losing faith, it was an honor to be able to donate to a cause that gives people a little hope. Congratulations to him.”
“I went to school here at Muhammad University and I had to come be a part of this,” said Sherrod Robinson, a retiree. “It’s about charity and being a blessing to others. As Muslims, this is our duty, to help those less fortunate than us. It’s great to see that glow on their faces because they are being helped out. These are hard times for everybody.”
One woman learned about the giveaway and came to get coats for her daughter’s children and a girl of a family they have been helping that was displaced due to a fire. “I got as many tickets as I could and then I gave them to others,” said Shirley Knox, a retired teacher. “I don’t want them to go to waste. This is wonderful that you all are doing this. It was just a blessing to be here.”
Attendees were thankful for the presence of Black men with the event outside in the parking lot of Mosque Maryam and the Fruit of Islam, men of the Nation of Islam, providing help and a presence. “This event was friendly and orderly, very kind, helpful and it was wonderful to see a lot of African American young men and men of all ages. That was very powerful. That’s the only thing that will stabilize our communities,” said Pat, who didn’t want to give her last name. She came to get a coat for her grandchild.
Longtime community residents were pleased to attend to receive the gifts and to enjoy fellowship. “We heard through the community that you guys were doing this event and we thought it would be nice to come just to experience. This community has been going down and we honor this experience,” said Daniel Goodwin who attended the event with his twin brother Don. The brothers have been in the South Shore area for more than 45 years.
“Min. Farrakhan has been doing a lot of things for this community ever since I can remember. It’s a blessing that he is in our community. I’d like to come back to attend the mosque meeting,” added Don Goodwin.
The coat give away is an outgrowth of Muhammad’s Food Pantry that Mr. Khaan launched in 2004. Kimberly Boyd, a nurse at the University of Chicago and Khaan’s older sister, not only raised $1,000 to help with the event which included the purchase of coats and the food, but she also was present handing out coats and food. “If we don’t help ourselves, who will? We are supposed to be a blessing to others,” she said.
The mission of The Khaan Foundation is to provide services and resources to underprivileged families and youth to improve their overall lives. The foundation owns and operates the food pantry that provides meals, groceries, clothing and furniture. The foundation also provides tutoring, counseling, mentoring and cultural activities. “We are currently in the early stages of providing job placement, vocational training and training in various trades through partnerships with the business community,” added Eugene Khaan.
—Toure Muhammad, Contributing Writer