‘Service based on love’: Religious group donates to Berkeley Food Pantry

This article was originally published on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in The Daily Californian. You can read an archived version at the Internet Archive.

The Berkeley Center of the Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi, or M.T.O., Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism donated supplies to the Berkeley Food Pantry on Monday in celebration of Eid al-Fitr, an Islamic holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

The donation consisted of 1200 pounds of nonperishable food and 200 adult-sized and 50 children-sized volunteer-made masks, according to M.T.O. Berkeley spokesperson Mana Nazeri. She added the donation is intended to benefit low-income families, senior citizens and UC Berkeley students.

“Because people are still suffering from the effects of the pandemic, this donation will provide much needed relief to the recipients,” Nazeri said in an email. “We hope our efforts encourage others to come together and help those who are in need.”

Ten volunteers from M.T.O. Berkeley helped organize the event at the Berkeley Food Pantry, according to Nazeri. In addition to organizers, Berkeley City Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani and Berkeley Food Pantry staff and volunteers, who helped distribute the food, were present at the event, according to Dharma Galang, director of the pantry.

Galang noted the large donation would go a “long way” to feeding families. She echoed Nazeri’s concerns over the continuing impact of COVID-19, noting the donation’s critical timing during a period of high food and energy costs due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Berkeley and Albany households who were already struggling before the pandemic are now dealing with the pressures,” Galang said in an email. “We must work together to make sure that all our neighbors have enough food, basic housing, and access to resources in order to be healthy and stable.”

This event was not the first time M.T.O. Berkeley has provided the Berkeley Food Pantry with donations targeted at easing life in a pandemic, Galang noted, adding that she hoped the two organizations could continue to work together into the future.

During the pandemic, M.T.O. Berkeley has donated 8,502 pieces of personal protective equipment and 22,256 other items, including food, to 73 facilities, according to Nazeri. The entire M.T.O. — which describes itself as an international nonprofit — has donated 120,000 tons of food during the pandemic, Nazeri noted. 

According to Nazeri, this streak of donations is based in the Islamic faith of the school, which claims its teachings on “self-knowledge” date back to and were approved by the religion’s founder. Guided by Islamic tenets, M.T.O. is active in charity, disaster relief and other service activities, Nazeri added.

“Khedmat, or Service based on love, is one of the main principles of Islam,” Nazeri said in an email. “As students and volunteers of M.T.O. we consider it our responsibility to perform charity and service to our community.”

Corrections: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated M.T.O. Berkeley donated 250 adult-sized masks. In fact, the group only donated 200 adult-sized masks.

Last updated Sunday, May 8, 2022. Written by Gabe Classon.

Tags: Albany, Berkeley Food Pantry, Dharma Galang, Eid al-Fitr, Islam, Khedmat, Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi Shahmaghsoudi, Mana Nazeri, MTO Berkeley, MTO Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism, Muhammad, Ramadan