The Muslim Community Center (MCC) – East Bay is a vibrant congregation devoted to practicing and sharing the values of Islam by providing religious, educational, and recreational facilities for members of the public. MCC serves about 15,000 Muslims living in the East Bay and is driven by a community-minded approach to Islam that appreciates the many opportunities and challenges of being an American-Muslim in 2021, according to Aminah Abdullah, who coordinates the MCC’s Pantry service, which provides donations of food to those in need.
When the pandemic began in March 2020, the community center closed its doors and charity to worshipers while food requests increased. Many came from young families and hourly workers impacted by the shelter-in-place mandate. With the Sunday School closed and its 420 children now receiving instruction online, the Pantry moved into four large classrooms. Within weeks, requests for food and rent doubled and soon quadrupled. Staff began stocking the Pantry with a wider variety of staple items, produce, and diapers.
“We had many people feeling anxiety and finding themselves in need of help for the first time,” notes Abdullah.
Before COVID-19, MCC had co-hosted a monthly drive-thru style food distribution to the uninsured in the Tri-Valley in conjunction with its Hacienda neighbor, Axis Community Health. Using that experience, MCC staff began bi-weekly food distributions. Because few families wished to venture out, MCC staff recruited about 65 congregation volunteers for contactless home deliveries. Volunteers leave care packages outside the doors of recipient families and speak to them by phone only. Volunteers also pick up medication for recipients.
MCC recently partnered with a local Pakistani doctors association to provide free telephone health appointments to any uninsured or underinsured adult in the Bay Area. The MCC Pantry currently serves more than 200 households, 80% of which have children. Most families have seen a significant loss of income due to the pandemic. The Pantry serves families living in the East Bay.
MCC has partnered with the Alameda County Community Food Bank, and its Pantry can now provide produce, meat, bread, and eggs in addition to basic staples to the families it serves. Through partnerships with local churches and nonprofits, MCC has also provided hygiene care products and backpacks full of school supplies to needy families. Just before Christmas, MCC became an Alameda County Food Bank distribution site. Any family can drive through the MCC parking lot each Tuesday or Thursday between 9:30 am and 1:30 pm to receive fresh produce and staple food items.
“We’re asking our congregation and community to be here for us for the long haul,” says Abdullah. “Until we get to the other side of the pandemic and beyond, serving our community and neighbors will remain our privilege.”
MCC East Bay has provided rental assistance, food, and help with utility bills to Muslim families throughout the Tri-Valley and greater East Bay area. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of families MCC has financially supported has more than quadrupled. The community center also has a car donation program that receives unused cars from the community, repairs the cars, and donates them to needy families who do not own a vehicle. More than 100 families have benefited from the program over the past few years.
The MCC East Bay strives to serve the East Bay Muslim community as an integral part of the society at large. “We value the relationships we have with our local interfaith community and the Tri-Valley community at large, creating programs and events that foster awareness and understanding to help bring people together,” Abdullah says.
For more information about the Muslim Community Center – East Bay, please visit www.mcceastbay.org.