Bell jingles, loud cheers, and upbeat music could be heard in Carrollton Headquarters Jamatkhana on November 21, 2018, as numerous volunteers competed to make meals for children and their families in the North Texas area. With turkeys roasting in their own ovens, volunteers chose to wake up and come serve on this Thanksgiving morning.

“We wanted to do a day of helping others on Thanksgiving,” says Shaheen Bandeali, Chairperson for the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board, saying, “It gives people an opportunity to think about what they are thankful for.”

I-CERV (Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering) volunteers arrived as early as 6:00 a.m. to unload 18-wheelers filled with supplies and organize the materials in assembly lines. More than 400 volunteers, ages 8 and up, arrived in three shifts over four hours to prepare 60,000 healthy meals.“I arrived at 7:30 a.m. to set up,” says Sharmin Merchant, a first-time volunteer. “I love this event. I am going to continue it next year and bring my family next time.” 

City of Carrollton Mayor Kevin Falconer, Canadian Consul General Vasken Khabayan, local City Council members, and Jamati institutional leaders were amongst the numerous volunteers who attended the event. Mayor Falconer commended this effort, saying “We are fortunate to have access to food and we take this blessing for granted but efforts such as this one remind us that there is much need in our own backyards and we need to come together to give back.”

“We are blessed to live in a country that has a lot of food,” says Salman Bhojani, Council Member for the City of Euless. “We are thankful for so much and it’s great to share the gift of food with other communities in the area.” 

The Ismaili Council for the Central US, Honorary Secretary Salim Rahimi, provided inspiring words and shed light on the importance of this service: “It's a disturbing fact that one in every four children is food-insecure in the North Texas area. This day of service allows us to reflect on our blessings and give back in the spirit of compassion,” he said.

The Council partnered with Feed Children Everywhere to attain supplies for the event and to determine how the food would be packaged.

Council member Samina Hooda explained, “It is important to note that these meals are designed to be of high nutritional value and we have arranged for the meals to be distributed to families through various food pantries in the DFW area.”

Boy Scout Shaayaan Raes was serving in his uniform. Attending with his parents and brother, he explained that a Boy Scout is there to always help and “never stops giving back.”

Ella Garner, a 14-year-old volunteer, drove 40 minutes from Midlothian, Texas, with her mother and best friend to serve and make a difference.“We did this community service after Hurricane Harvey, and it was a great experience,” says Garner. “It was a lot of fun and the drive was totally worth it. I can’t wait until next year.”