Leftover Ramadan meals go to feeding hungry

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Helping Handzzz founder Nadine Daoud, 22, of Dearborn, center, and Daoud Wehbi, 21, of Dearborn Heights, right, check the food that they and others from Helping Handzzz are giving to a presumably homeless man at Hart Plaza in Detroit on Friday.

Dearborn — Families gathering around the table to break fast during Ramadan often are so hungry, they overcook and under eat.

But instead of throwing unused food in the trash, a local group is repurposing the meals to feed others across Metro Detroit.

Helping Handzzz, a volunteer group based in Dearborn, collects leftovers from homes and restaurants to feed at least 20 families and hundreds of homeless in Detroit. 

Nadine Daoud, a 22-year-old pharmacy student, started the volunteer group in her Dearborn home in 2017 during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month in which worshipers fast daily from dawn to dusk. 

"We were in my basement thinking, 'We're not going to throw all this food away. It's Ramadan, that's the whole point of fasting and it's a time to give back,' " Daoud said. "I through a flyer out on social media and had so many people reach out to me saying 'Hey, I have food too, come pick it up.' "

► More: Ramadan a time for 'togetherness,' Dearborn family says

More: Ramadan brings families and friends together for late-night dining

Friends began helping Daoud, and this year, the group is fully functioning and is run through social media.

Anyone in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights with safely handled untouched food can message @TheHelpingHandzzz on Instagram with an address, which is given to one of the six drivers. The group also has a trunk open for drop-off donations at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge at 6345 Shaefer in Dearborn. 

"It's intentionally spelled Helping Handzzz," Daoud said. "The z's represent that most of our donations occur at night and we work while people are sleeping and don't finish until after 1 a.m."

The food donations are examined for safety and taken to the Islamic Institute of Knowledge, where they serve dinner to those in need. Food is also distributed to the homeless in Detroit's downtown Hart Plaza and delivered to the Detroit Rescue Mission. 

Helping Handzzz founder Nadine Daoud, 22, of Dearborn, right, asks a man what kind of chips he would like while she, President Sarah Esseily, 22, left, of Canton and others from Helping Handzzz give food to presumably homeless people at Hart Plaza in Detroit late Friday.

About 10 trays of food are saved each night for the 20 families that the organization provides for and are delivered the following day so the family has food before iftar, the evening meal at sunset. 

"Most of our food goes to refugees," she said. "We feed Muslims, but it's for anyone with an empty belly. It's about supporting anyone that needs help, that's the goal because we're all human."

Mariam Hachem, a Wayne State University student from Dearborn, said she started volunteering with the group because she felt like she wasn’t doing enough to give back during the holy month. 

“I pick up donations, help separate food at the mosque and then go down to Detroit to hand out to the homeless and it’s amazing how those in need are starting to know us by name,” said Hachem, 20. “They’re so appreciative. We’ll give them food and they’ll lead us to other homeless in Hart Plaza that we wouldn’t have seen.”

Hachem said the experience has been humbling.

“We’ll be making a plate for a homeless man and he’ll stop and say that’s enough, please give some to the person sleeping next to me,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how grateful they are and the small things that they ask for like a blanket, a notepad or books. We’ll come back the next day with blankets for them and the look on their face, it makes you appreciate the things you have more."

Helping Handzzz founder Nadine Daoud, 22, of Dearborn, left, and President Sarah Esseily, 22, center, of Canton and others give food to Gregory Winans, 35, right, at Hart Plaza in Detroit late Friday.

In addition to collecting and delivering food during Ramadan, Helping Handzzz has toy drives at mosques to collect gifts for kids to have on Eid, a festive holiday at the end of Ramadan. They also collect supplies for hygiene packages for homeless people in Detroit and at mosques.

"We're known for the Ramadan food donations, but have expanded our efforts to provide anything a family may need," Daoud said. "We've pulled together to get an AC unit for a family, clothes, blankets and supplies."

Daoud said she hopes to one day open a shelter named Helping Handzzz.

"I hope to own a mini shelter next to a mosque that will have doors open for people to eat and rest," she said. "It'll be heated in the winter, cool in the summer. Somewhere they can grab supplies and food as needed and we don't have to tackle them on the streets."

How to donate to Helping Handzzz

Ameena Elder, 34, lays out a spread of grape leaves, tabouli, lentil soup, cucumber salad, musakhan and sambusa for her family and extended family at her home in Dearborn on May 23, 2018.

•Message group on Instagram @TheHelpingHandzzz with an address and what you have to donate

•Make sure food is secured to prevent leaks. Helping Handzzz does not accept soup. Salads must have dressing on the side. Make sure to mark halal food. The food has to be untouched and presentable (trays with food removed will not be accepted.)

•A volunteer will be at the address you provide between 9:30-10:30 p.m to pick up.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

Helping Handzzz founder Nadine Daoud, 22, of Dearborn, lower right, and Irena Zapotny, 17, left, of Dearborn Heights and others from Helping Handzzz give food to Gregory Winans, 35, right, at Hart Plaza in Detroit late Friday night. Standing behind Nadine is Alayna Berri, 11, of Dearborn Heights and Ali Abdallah, 23, of Dearborn.