Back when the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) was headquartered in a humble brick house, its leaders were dreaming of a larger complex—and a food pantry.
Thirty-five-plus years later, the house has long been replaced by a sprawling center on Brush Hollow Road in Westbury. And the other dream came to life on Aug. 9, when elected officials joined ICLI leaders to officially welcome its Community Pantry.
It is situated in the basement of a house at 11 Jaymie Dr. owned by the ICLI. The entrance is behind the house and reachable from the complex parking lots.
In conjunction with the opening, the youth members at the center put together 526 boxes of food dedicated to the memory of George Floyd, the Black man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis this past May. The 526, according to ICLI Board of Trustees President Habeeb Ahmed, translates into the seconds that officer Derek Chauvin pressed on Floyd’s neck, eventually killing him.
Ahmed told Anton Media Group that the boxes will be distributed to area churches which operate food pantries.
Speaking before a crowd in the large courtyard, Ahmed noted that the ICLI has worked with many food pantries, including those at St. Brigid’s Church and the Neighborhood House in Westbury, as well as St. Aidan’s in Williston Park and several synagogues.
“The pantry is a dream come true for me,” said Isma Chaudhry, chair of the ICLI’s board.
She went on to thank Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro for helping with the complex grant application. The county offered the money to pantries, made possible from federal coronavirus pandemic relief funds.
“I was taken aback, when we started these conversations, by the actual needs of the community,” Cavallaro observed.
Cavallaro said he felt strongly about hunger in the community. He recalled preparing food boxes as a boy; his mother Johanna co-founded the parish outreach at St. Brigid’s that eventually resulted in the food pantry. The pandemic, he noted, had exacerbated the hunger problem.
“One thing I’ve experienced during this pandemic is the greater good in people, helping those less fortunate,” said Senator Anna Kaplan (D–Great Neck), who represents the district.
She noted that she was a frequent visitor, and praised the ICLI’s charitable efforts.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said she was grateful to the center “for really standing up during the worst days of the pandemic,” mentioning its personal protection equipment drive and a food drive to help first responders and health care workers.
“The cliche of 2020 is ‘We’re all in this together.’ But it’s true. We swim or sink together,” Curran concluded. “And I’m incredibly grateful for ICLI and the Muslim community at large for their generosity and for stepping up for their neighbors.”
The pantry with will be open on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“It is open to one and all,” Ahmed said.