Samuel Albaugh just picked up two boxes of chicken sandwiches and snacks from a meal pick-up site, to deliver it to a family with five children.
Albaugh has never met the family. He’s helping them out because he signed up to be a volunteer for the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service, a grassroots project started by Riyah Basha and Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh.
“I just started a new job and we’re not able to work. A lot of good things were happening and then it kind of just stopped with the virus.” — Amy Stewart, resident
Sheikh says when COVID-19 hit she was worried about how high-risk people would be able to safely get their groceries.
“And I honestly started with just posting a Facebook status to see what was going on in the community,” Sheikh says. “Very quickly, Riyah reached out and said, ‘Hey, I think it would be really great to start something locally in the Troy and Rochester area at our local mosque.’”
While the project is called the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service, the volunteers and community members served come from a variety of faith, beliefs and backgrounds. Sheikh says in just their first week and a half of operation more than 300 volunteers signed up to be a part of the project and 40 people have received food.
Click on the player above to listen to a local volunteer deliver groceries to a family in metro Detroit.
The women partnered with the Amity Foundation and quickly expanded into a well-oiled machine serving anyone in need of getting food on their doorstep in more than 12 cities across Southeast Michigan. The current list includes Ann Arbor, Canton, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Detroit, Flint, Grand Blanc, Northville, Rochester, Saginaw, Sterling Heights, Troy and Warren.
Making An Effort
Here’s how it works: Anyone in the metro Detroit area who would like food delivered to their doorstep can call the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service hotline at (734) 210-0316.
They’re then directed to a volunteer who takes a grocery or free meal pick-up order.
If the client needs groceries, they can pay online or by leaving a cash envelope on their doorstep. If they can’t pay there is a fund from people who’ve donated since the project launched. Either way there’s no delivery fee.
Once an order is in, it’s sent to a group on the popular messaging service What’s App, where volunteers like Albaugh see it (more information on volunteering here.)
Albaugh says he decided to help out with the Michigan Muslim Community Grocery Service because he’s young and healthy and can’t go into the Detroit museum where he works because it’s closed right now.
“I’m still fortunate enough to be able to get paid at my job. There’s not much I can do at home. So, in order to get that paycheck guilt-free, I still need to put in a nine-to five-effort wherever I can.”
Albaugh pulls up to the Detroit home where he’ll be dropping off the chicken sandwiches. To limit the spread of the virus, he’s just supposed to leave the food on the doorstep and then call the family, but there are kids out in the front yard playing with a cat.
Albaugh greets the kids and sets the boxes down next to them.
“Can you help bring these in?” he asks one of them.
A young boy starts taking the boxes inside. His sibling gets the door.
“Just A Blessing”
Amy Stewart, their mother, comes out to the front yard. She says COVID-19 threw her family for a loop.
“I just started a new job and we’re not able to work. A lot of good things were happening and then it kind of just stopped with the virus going on.”
Now Stewart is staying home with her five kids. She says having the meals delivered to her family makes a big difference.
“You have to serve those that need the help.” — Sumaiya Ahmed Sheikh, founder
“I don’t have the means to get out and go, and I have all the kids with me, so it’s not exactly the best time to be running out with all your children,” she says. That’s why Stewart is grateful for the doorstep food service. “It’s just a blessing. It’s very helpful and I’m so appreciative for it.”
Sheikh says what drove her to help start the grocery deliver project was her faith.
“To be Muslim, you have to serve those that need the help. And I know that’s not [just] a Muslim thing… it’s a Jewish thing, it’s a Christian thing, it’s being a human thing,” she says. “It’s really nice that we all, regardless of race or background, can get together and help all Michiganders that need the help.”