Suburban Mosaic: Charity group distributes 3,600 halal turkeys to families in need

Hundreds of suburban families will get to have a wholesome Thanksgiving meal thanks to a local charity group's efforts to get organic turkeys to those in need.

Zakat Chicago, a committee of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, kicked off a Turkey Distribution Drive on Friday.

Through today, the group will distribute more than 3,600 halal Crescent Foods turkeys — halal means permissible for consumption and slaughtered according to the Islamic tradition — through its partners across Chicago and the suburbs. The campaign's goal is to provide nutritious meals to underprivileged families, enabling them to celebrate the holidays with dignity.

“This is a holiday where a lot of people get together with families,” said Salman Mohiuddin of Hawthorn Woods, a Zakat Chicago committee member and project lead. “We wanted to make sure they could take part in a family affair. We came up with 29 different partners, 30 different distribution centers. Some of those partners are also food pantries. People of different faiths come and they are able to benefit from it.”

Among the partnering agencies are Chi-Care in Bensenville, Mosque Foundation Food Pantry in Bridgeview, ICNA Relief in Glendale Heights, Masjid Rahmah Great America Islamic Center in Lake Villa, Rahmah Interfaith Food Pantry in Niles, Help from USA to BiH in Niles, Islamic Foundation of Villa Park, the Urban Muslim Minority Alliance in Waukegan, and Sudanese American Charity in West Chicago.

Each turkey weighs between 16 and 20 pounds and should feed 10 to 14 people, Mohiuddin said.

Going forward, the drive will be conducted annually, as more people registered this year than there were turkeys available, Mohiuddin said.

Since its inception in 1997, Zakat Chicago collects and distributes funds locally to have a direct impact on communities in the city and suburbs. That includes supporting food pantries, aiding in refugee resettlement, funding health care clinics, providing emergency shelter and temporary rental assistance, and running weekend school programs and youth camps. Among its flagship initiatives are an Empowerment Scholarship Program and Winter Kit Distribution.

Building bridges

Building Peaceful Bridges, a local nonprofit whose mission is to foster the successful integration of newcomers into American society, will hold its annual benefit, Gather for Good, on Nov. 30.

BPB is marking its fifth anniversary. The group sponsors and mentors newcomers to the U.S. from countries like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It also is helping with the resettlement of migrants from Latin America arriving in Chicago, and assisting five such families with housing, mental health counseling, work authorization and other needs.

“Our annual benefit and five-year anniversary couldn't come at a more critical time given the ongoing inflow of refugees from around the world and the migrants now overwhelming temporary shelters in Chicago,” said Lori Luchetti, president and co-founder of Building Peaceful Bridges. “These newcomers need more than just the immediate assistance our government and resettlement agencies provide. They need local community members to walk with them on this journey, fostering their successful integration into American society and building a true sense of belonging.”

BPB was co-founded in 2018 by Luchetti and Ahlam Mahmood, an Iraqi refugee. The group served nearly 500 newcomers, delivering more than $40,000 in in-kind donations, and spending more than 2,000 hours on ESL education in 2022.

It provides services such as rental assistance, tutoring, employment counseling and a free store to help build comfortable living spaces. It also holds regular educational programs — a monthly “Reading Refugee Book Club”— and engages in advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and refugees.

Volunteers, sponsors, newcomer families and other supporters will come together for the benefit celebration from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Glen Club, 2901 W. Lake Ave., Glenview. The event is open to the public and includes cocktails, dinner, and a blessing from a local priest, rabbi, and imam. After dinner, speakers will share newcomers' journeys and organizers will present the Bridge Builder Award. Register at

Native heritage

Elgin Community College's inaugural observance of Native American Heritage Month will include movie screenings, storytelling, and discussions honoring Native American and Indigenous people and their cultures.

“As an institution with a rich multiethnic and multicultural makeup, acknowledging the experiences, contributions, and impact of Native and Indigenous people is vital to the growth and enrichment of our local and campus communities,” said Erik Enders, student life coordinator for student equity.

Events are open to the public and will be held at ECC's campus, 1700 Spartan Drive, in Elgin. They include:

• Acknowledging Native Americans and the Land, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 28, Building B, Jobe Lounge. Joseph “Standing Bear” Schranz, founder and president of the Midwest SOARRING (Save Our Ancestors' Remains and Resources Indigenous Network Group) Foundation, will lead a conversation around honoring Indigenous culture.

• Stories Are Medicine, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 29, Building B, Jobe Lounge. Explore the healing power of sharing stories with Hawaiian grandmother Susan Ka'iulani Stanton (Nanatusi Aukwe-Chiefmoon Lady).

• A private screening of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 30, Marcus Elgin Cinema. This event is closed to the public. Contact Enders at (847) 214-7352 or to register.

Diwali celebration

Thousands of people turned out for Aurora's ninth annual Diwali celebration held Nov. 12, at Waubonsie Valley High School.

The city's Indian American Advisory Board hosted the annual Festival of Lights observance, which marks the triumph of light over dark and good over evil.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin issued a special proclamation and the celebration included traditional and contemporary cultural performances by youth and adults, and a vendor fair.

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  People wait outside as Zakat Chicago prepares to distribute halal turkeys Saturday at ICNA Relief Food Pantry in Glendale Heights. Brian Hill/
  Nasreen Khan of Streamwood helps prepare and sort halal turkeys being distributed by Zakat Chicago Saturday at ICNA Relief Food Pantry in Glendale Heights. Brian Hill/
  One of 60 halal turkeys distributed by Zakat Chicago Saturday at ICNA Relief Food Pantry in Glendale Heights. Brian Hill/
The Black Hawk Dance Troupe performed during an Elgin Community College event celebrating Indigenous heritage. Courtesy of Elgin Community College
Performers entertain the crowd at the 2023 Diwali Celebration in Aurora hosted by the city's Indian American Advisory Board. Courtesy of City of Aurora
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