November Day of Dignity Event Helps Combat Pandemic-Based Food Insecurity in Dearborn

Photo of hygiene and care tent and volunteers at Day of Dignity event in Dearborn, Nov. 7, 2020
Volunteers at "Day of Dignity," Dearborn, Nov. 7, 2020 | Photo by Yasmeen Berry

On Nov. 7, outside the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, a diverse range of organizations within the local community came together for a common purpose: to provide necessary goods and services to those that have been systematically underserved.

At the “Day of Dignity,” volunteers helped to distribute non-perishable food items from Gleaners Community Food Bank, frozen turkeys, school kits, hygiene kits, sanitary napkins, and winter coats. Along with the distribution event, COVID testing and flu shots were provided on-site and at no cost by Western Wayne Family Health Centers. Within the 3-hour time span of the event, volunteers were able to provide these resources to more than 400 families in need from across the local community.

Community volunteers emphasized the importance of looking past differences to unite towards a common goal.

“This event is about coming together as a community to give back and to recognize what others have done for us.” says Fatimah Cheaito, the President-Elect of the Wayne State University Arab American Pharmacists Association. “We are lucky to have so much good fortune come through our lives. It is important to remember that there are many that do not have the same resources that we have access to on a daily basis.”

Nabighah Azam, a junior at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and Community Service Chair for the university’s Muslim Student Association, said, “It is a day where we can serve the underserved and give them basic necessities and rights that everyone deserves to have. There are resources that unfortunately our public health system is not always able to provide access to. This is our chance to give back to our community.”

As the event was held within the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the organizers of the “Day of Dignity” were tasked not only with distributing the goods and services effectively, but also safely. Using strict safety measures and precautions with all involved personnel, C-ASIST organizers created a “drive-thru food drive” system in which families in need could follow a contactless pickup system. The efficiency of this event’s system depended upon C-ASIST’s collaboration with the Dearborn Police Department. “We are here to make sure that the families know where to go,” said one intern from the Dearborn Police Department during the event. “This ensures that the traffic moves smoothly and everyone is able to stay safe.”

To help address the health needs of the Dearborn Community, Blue Cross Complete partnered with C-ASIST during this event to provide hygiene kits to the families in need. Dena Nagarah, the Community Outreach Manager for Blue Cross Complete, describes how the pandemic impacted the way in which their organization approached community collaboration.

“When the pandemic hit in March 2020, we had to find creative solutions to assist our community organizations in ways that were safe and effective in meeting the needs of the community” Nagarah said. “Blue Cross Complete supported COVID-19 relief efforts by sponsoring community programs and the delivery of resources, such as grocery totes for food distributions and hygiene items, such as hand sanitizer.” Nagarah continued, “We also supported drive-through resource fairs, flu shot clinics and virtual health fairs to provide resources and health education to our communities.” According to Nagarah, “Blue Cross Complete has supported 569 community programs and initiatives.”

Ahmed Aduib, the Midwest Regional Manager for Islamic Relief USA, said that the original message behind hosting a “Day of Dignity” is “not just about food or giving people items; rather, it's about making sure that they feel comfortable and that individuals feel healthy.” Aduib adds, “Overall, the Day of Dignity is something that we do to try and restore dignity in people's lives and give them hope.”

Islamic Relief USA, the sponsor of “Day of Dignity” events held nationwide, decided to partner with C-ASIST to help facilitate the shift to pandemic-based relief. Nancy Berry, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of C-ASIST describes the importance of promoting diversity through these community events. “We are not serving one population or the other, we're serving anybody who's in need. That's our mission, which aligns with the mission of Islamic Relief USA as well,” said Berry.

This message of inclusivity is also implemented into other projects that the C-ASIST nonprofit organization promotes in the community. In addition to programs addressing food insecurity, mental health, substance abuse, and community empowerment, this local nonprofit is also known for its health clinic. The C-ASIST Free Health Clinic is a member of The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinic. Their free mental health and wellness clinic currently provides a wide range of health services, including medical, pharmaceutical, behavioral health, vision, and health education, to those in the community that are uninsured, under-insured, and/or have limited or no access to primary, specialty, or prescription health care. If patients are in need of medical care beyond the services offered at the family health clinic, they are connected through clinic referral to other safety net providers and additional resources and services that are available in their area.

Nancy Berry goes on to describe the importance of inclusivity. “We prioritize anyone that needs help, whether medical, social, or any other aspect of care.” Berry continues, “That's what we're here to do. We are here to help anyone and everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, or religion.”

The “Day of Dignity” event held in the Dearborn community was organized by C-ASIST, a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit community outreach organization that focuses on helping low-income, underserved communities including refugees and immigrants. It was sponsored by Islamic Relief USA, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit that supports projects to help disadvantaged communities within the United States. Other collaborators of this event included Blue Cross Complete of Michigan, the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, the Dearborn Police Department, and Western Wayne Family Health Centers. In addition to these volunteers and collaborators, student groups were eager to participate: including the Wayne State University Arab American Pharmacists Association, the University of Michigan Ann Arbor Muslim Student Association, and the Henry Ford College Phi Theta Kappa Honors Organization.

Visit https://c-asist.org to learn more about the C-ASIST community non-profit organization and the services that it currently has to offer.

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