Moorestown council recognized resident Saima Bhutta and the Muslim Federation of South Jersey at a recent meeting for their commitment to helping local communities.
In an official proclamation, Mayor Nicole Gillespie commemorated the holidays of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr and addressed the federation’s dedication to assisting people in need.
“This past year, they have led countless clothing and supply donation drives to help hundreds of Afghan refugees located in New Jersey,” she said.
Bhutta, vice president of the federation, explained how the nonprofit completed a food drive for the month of Ramadan.
“ … This whole food drive situation went in(to) hyperdrive, because in the month of Ramadan, Muslims do a lot of charity,” she remarked. “Since I’ve been doing this for the past four or five years … we’ve been working with Islamic Social Services and we have located people who really need help.”
Bhutta said those people include the elderly and disabled, widows, minorities and immigrants and those who lost their jobs to COVID.
The federation works with counties and towns to have someone come and collect food donations, or if volunteers need to be assigned to drop off items.
“We do this all in Burlington and Camden (counties) all the way to Atlantic County,” Bhutta noted. “We have identified 250 families who are … those are the kind of people who would never ask for money from anybody, but we know that they don’t have three square meals a day.”
“They are such great people that they would never let anybody know what is going on in their homes,” she added, “but we find out through different means and through our mosques (and) through other organizations that these are the people who really need help.”
The federation – a nonprofit that began in 2014 – regularly works with religious organizations to find out who is in need.
“We have about 25 different mosques in this area of New Jersey,” Bhutta explained. “Each mosque has a record of people who require monetary assistance because they are registered there … We go to them and we say, ‘You don’t have to give us the names, just identify those people and tell them to come and get food from us.’”
“ … So that way their privacy is kept, and I don’t need to know their names,” she added. “The organization knows their name and they make sure that they get what is needed.”
Bhutta described how it felt to have the Muslim community recognized by council for helping others.
“We saw a lot of diversity there,” she said of the council session. “We had Muslims from all different denominations and from different nationalities. We had Turkish Muslims there, we had Arab Muslims there, we had Indian, Pakistani, Bangladesh … You could see the diversity in our town and in town hall that night.”
“Parents brought their children because they wanted them to kind of witness this historic event and because they want them to be proud of their heritage,” Bhutta continued. “We are doing a lot of stuff for the community at large.”
“It’s not that Muslims are doing work for Muslims, we are just reaching out.”
Bhutta expressed how the federation continues to help communities year-round.
“When I made this organization, Muslim Federation, I told them that … many organizations have been made before this, and once or twice a year, they do a big event and that’s it,” she said.
“That’s not what I want from this organization. I (constantly want) something good to be imparted to the community on a regular basis.”