Two religions came together to provide a hot lunch for Rotterdam Junction residents as they tried to make their houses homes again.
The women’s group of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Rotterdam Junction on Saturday, Oct. 1, teamed up with the “Sandwich Brigade” organized by Joann Canary and Ann Kulkus operating out of St. Margaret’s Church in Rotterdam Junction. The effort between the two faiths seems it will extend beyond one day, because the Ahmadiyya group has already offered to help out in the future when the brigade has lunches that fall short or needs a boost.
Tahira Khan, of Niskayuna, said members of the mosque, which is located a short distance from the church, were ready to provide assistance to the residents of their community.
“When we had this idea of coming and helping with food today there was this feeling of excitement … this is part of our faith and to help neighbors is something that is intrinsically Islamic,” said Khan. “We want our neighbors to know that although our mosque wasn’t hit in the floods we feel their pain and we’re there to do whatever we can to help them in a way that they need us to help them in.”
The group wanted to bring all Indian food, but she said they weren’t sure if residents would enjoy it. This led them to bringing a mixture, which included some “good ol’ American food” from Subway and chicken tikka masala and rice. The Indian food also provided a hot lunch compared to the subs.
“On this cold, wet, damp day, I’m sure it is going to be enjoyed by everyone,” Khan said of the Indian food. “Chicken tikka masala is kind of mild.”
Canary said she came up with the idea to serve lunches to victims once she realized free lunches weren’t going to be offered at the local firehouse anymore. Before mosque members teamed up with the church on Oct. 1, the lunch program had only run once the previous weekend. People can come and pick up lunch at the church, but the focus is to deliver lunches to residents working on recovery efforts within Rotterdam Junction. It’s extended to delivering lunches to Pattersonville, too.
“I just said I had to do something,” Canary said. “There is too many people who need food … so that’s when I came up with the sandwich bags and I just called it the ‘Sandwich Brigade,’ because I said I wanted to go out to them. I don’t want them to have to come to me.”
During the first week, she said more than 150 lunches were handed out, which included a sandwich and drink. She said anywhere there is someone working the lunches would be delivered.
Since Canary lives on Alexander Drive near Lock 9, she witnessed the destruction closely.
“We watched Lock 9 disappear,” she said. “The whole first day I remember we just kept walking back and forth to watch the river. It was scary.”
For Khan, she said helping out in the community transcends any boundaries between faiths.
“Humanity is humanity, regardless of what label you give it,” she said. “At the time when the people start forgetting about the people who have suffered this is a good time to come when it’s not so much in the limelight. Just to give people that helping hand and let them forget about one meal for one day … so they can get on with repairing their homes and lives before the onset of winter.”
Canary said she had hoped normalcy could return to Rotterdam Junction around Christmas and she is looking into getting donations for Christmas trees.
“I’d love to drive down Main Street and see every house with a lighted Christmas tree in their front window,” she said. “I love that holiday.”