“Serving the poor is the true service to the God”. During 2008 Diwali 4 shakhas in Midwest Sambhag – Abhimanyu shakha at Shaumburg, Bloomington shakha, Eagen shakha and Shree Ram shakha, Indianapolis took up food drive to bring into reality this age old adage from our Hindu scriptures. Although all the shakhas took up this initiative independently, the common thread that seemed to be running through them was the urge to something for the society in which they live. That was also thought of as a reasonable way to assimilate in the local community. History of food drives in Midwest dates back to 2006 Diwali when Bloomington shakha 1st demonstrated it successfully. This year 3 more shakhas joined in to execute this initiative locally. Needless to say that each of these food drives were planned meticulously and executed diligently. Each one of them had some local flavor too. Like in Bloomington the tradition has been to conduct the food drive in collaboration with the local Indian Organization. At Abhimanyu shakha the karyakartas thought it the most appropriate way of celebrating Diwali by sharing the joy of Hindu festival of Lights with the less privileged people of the local community. Diwali Food Drive was a result of such a noble and kind hearted feeling. Over the next 2 weeks they collected several bag full of non-perishable food items and essential toiletries and also contacted several local Food pantries in surrounding communities and one of them housed inside a Church in Elk Grove Village was very excited to be the beneficiary of this Food Drive. The pantry was very appreciative of this initiative by HSS that Nancy from this Food Pantry welcomed kids and parents from the Shakha who had gone to deliver the items and she was very appreciative of people from Hindu faith coming into a Church to deliver Food items. For the karyakartas of the Abhimanyu shakha from beginning to end of the initiative, it was a great and fulfilling experience.
In Bloomington the Sewa International – Bloomington chapter and the local shakha jointly in collaboration with 7 other Indian organizations in the town organized the Food drive on the auspicious occassion of Diwali. This was the third successful year of this noble initiative. Here too the vision wan’t different than the other shakhas, that is the Indians in the town are also a part of the local community and giving & contributing should come about naturally. Diwali is an auspicious occassion for Hindus and hence this was chosen as the day. There was a core team of 15 volunteers. Food collection started from 12 October and lasted for 3 weeks. There were around 20 food collection centre in the twin towns of Bloomington & Normal, from where the food used to collected at a central location. The food was distributed to 5 charities which were pre-decided. The distribution took place on November 1 & 2. In all around 25 volunteers took part actively in the whole exercise. The charities appreciated the food that was given to them. 3 of them also sent a thanks / appreciation note. All in all it was a satisfying experience for the Bloomington shakha karyakartas.
At Eagan Shakha, spark of a conversation blossomed into an idea of donating food and related items to the local Family Resource Center with the noble intention to integrate themselves with local communityand assist the needy. The Family Resource Center at Mount Calvary was chosen due its close proximity and being in the same county as those of most of the KKs of the Eagan Shakha. The karyakartas from shakha and Balagokulam enthusiastically started bringing in donations in form of canned foods and monetory donations during ttarting with he Diwali weekend. Collection ended on November 22, 2008 and the donated items were donated at the food shelf on November 25, 2008. The Shakha collected several items ranging from cans of soup and vegetables to boxed items such as mashed potatoes, crackers, paper towels and Laundry detergent. The food shelf coordinators were extremely pleased with the donations and appropriately extended their thanks to the Shakha KKs.
In Indianapolis, the Shree Ram Shakha organized a food drive during Diwali to serve the homeless families of Indianapolis. The idea was conceived in one of the shakha baithaks two months before Diwali.The idea here being to continue the tradition of sharing our happiness with the less privileged during our festivals. All the karyakartas agreed that there should be a food donation drive to help the homeless people of Indianapolis. Holy Family shelter was chosen as the shelter to donate food, because it provides shelter for families and children. The date to donate food was also decided as November 9th 2008. Each of karyakartas listed five families they knew to collect the food. The shelter kitchen in charge was contacted to find out what was needed by them. A total number of 30 families participated in the food drive, donating generous amounts of food. On the designated date, 9 karyakartas went to the shelter in three cars full of collected food. Karen (the coordinator at the shelter) lauded the efforts of the shakha karyakartas.
All in all it was matter of great satisfaction and a spiritual experience to the karyakartas of each of these shakha. As one of the karyakartas said ” You cannot measure the satisfaction found in helping people who are in need. On the occasion of Diwali this year, we found the true meaning of being a Hindu, spreading light ”
They brought into being in a sense the geet which we have always sung compassionately in sangh – “Chalo jalaye deep vahan jahan abhi bhi andhera hai”
Pictures are availabel at the link below
Bloomington – http://www.hssus.org/gallery/v/MWEST/Bloomington+Diwali+Food+Drive_001/
Indianapolis – http://www.hssus.org/gallery/v/MWEST/Indy+Diwali+Food+Drive/