I first heard of Humbly Assisting Humanity during my very first Focus on Food Justice interview with Free Food For All Delaware. Jamilah told me about the work her friend was doing, and I immediately began following her on Instagram. I’m excited to finally interview her for this series, and bring attention to the work she does and the event she is co-sponsoring with FFFA-DE in a couple of weeks.
What is Humbly Assisting Humanity – what is it that you do?
Good question. We do a little bit of a lot, or a lot of a little. So we started – I should probably go back. How we started is we saw a need during Covid, and so our initial plan was to provide assistance for the elderly population, for those who were immunocompromised and couldn’t get out and about during the pandemic as much as someone who was not immunocompromised or elderly and could get out safer. So we started doing pantry bags and just small meals, and reaching out to people and making deliveries. Or asking our neighbors to see what they might need – elderly neighbors – to see what they might need from the store, and just simple trips like that.
While we were doing that, we noticed that there were a lot of people in the regular age group bracket and in the area that were food insecure as well. And that’s how we came to where we are now, which is providing meals and essential items and things like that for the homeless population, but also just anyone [who needs it] . Because someone who’s hungry doesn’t have to be without a home. Especially in this day and time where everything is so expensive, you kind of have to choose between bills and food sometimes, you know, and quality food. So that’s how we started.
Where did the inspiration for the name come from?
We started by – [my family and I] had just finished prayer, and we had a family meeting, and I said, “Guys, I really want to do something. Let’s figure out a plan of how we can help.” And that’s how we devised a plan of helping others, and so Humbly Assisting Humanity is actually my kids’ initials (Hanaan, Abdul and Harith). We wanted to come up with a name, so we sat there and drew a little logo and we also came up with the name, all of us as a family – myself and my three children.
Are they involved with the work that you do?
They are. I actually like to call them my co-founders. They actually founded it along with me, because they were the ones who helped me brainstorm, and I kind of wanted them, without me giving so much feedback, to think outside the box about how we could help.
So where do you get the food from that you use to make these meals?
We frequent wholesale, like Restaurant Depot. But we also like to try to look for sales. Part of our process is we look for items that are on sale at the local grocery. I used to store them, but my house is kind of small so we normally do the Restaurant Depot or local, like The Produce Spot. Farmers markets’ of course, we like to visit those and build connections there.
So you’re buying all of the supplies just out of your own pocket?
Well, we get donations from the community, which has been such a great help. Initially it was out of my own pocket, but I realized quickly that I couldn’t do everything on my own, so that’s where we called on help from the community. And it’s been very well received, I’m just so grateful for the support. And we’re always looking for ways to raise funds and creative ways
Is your primary work now making meals and dropping them off with people who need it?
No this would be a passion project [laughs]
Oh sorry, no that’s what I meant! With Humbly Assisting Humanity, within that project, do you have people’s addresses and it’s a network where you’re dropping food off to them, or are there larger community events that you also provide food for?
Yeah, so we do have a couple of regulars in the area who do reach out to us when, you know, their things have dwindled down and they just need a care package. Part of that is the elderly population as well as just a few families who are in between homes and having a rough go. And we also go to the Glenn Motel, which is on Route 40. We serve there twice a month; that’s our goal each month. Some months it’s more, some months it’s less, but we try to at least go twice a month.
You know, I might as well ask – what is your full-time job?
Oh yeah, sure! [laughs] My full-time at the moment, I’m working with West Side Grows Together. I’m the community engagement coordinator. I go [to the Cool Springs Farmers’ Market] and I interact with the people there, take pictures for their page and also mine too, because we like to give exposure on both sides. So it works out [laughs]. And then I was helping pack up. If you go to their Instagram you can see right now I’m working on the Aging and Staging Repair Program with my colleague, and so that is providing repairs for the elderly population, whether they need a new roof or a new furnace, getting them ready for the winter months, and summer months as well.
How would you say that the need for your assistance has grown over the last couple years?
We’ve definitely grown. Before, when we first started, we’d have maybe 10 meals or 15 meals to give out, to doing 50 meals twice a month, at least. So we’ve been building that capacity. And we sometimes get calls or messages asking if there’s extra funds or groceries and we’ll do home delivery as well, when our budget allows.
I know you mentioned the Glenn Motel. Are there other organizations you sometimes partner with?
Yes. So that is of course my favorite, Free Food For All. The two organizations we partner with most times are FFFA Buddy Speaks. And we may be partnering with West Side Grows soon on some projects. And looking to expand. We also visited the residents who were displaced recently on Adams Street in Wilmington. So we did go over and provide meals for them; and so that was very eye-opening. I also arranged it with West Side Grows for them to get involved and for us to go there and feed as well, with my regular work. So they were really happy to serve.
Do you have a vision for what you would love for Humbly Assisting Humanity to grow into?
We would like to officially have our 501(c)3, and that way we can expand our reach. And also, since there is such a great need for this program and just food insecurity in general, maybe we could create a workforce somewhere down the line and employ the youth, and educate them also; become active in the community, and give back as well. And also, hopefully have a community refrigerator as well as a food pantry that may have extended hours, different hours than other ones, kind of like an emergency food bank.
Is the area that you serve primarily in the west side of Wilmington?
For work, yes, but for others, no. And we hope to expand. Sometimes we go to Newark. Oh we also partnered with The Village Tree as well. So we’re willing to go where the need is. It’s just about building those connections and finding out exactly where it is. I know I’m hoping to do something on the west side, only because they recently closed Rite Aid, and they recently closed, I think, Save A Lot. And so, where are these people getting food from if they don’t have transportation, or money. That was the only place within walking distance. So I hope to do something around that area as well. We’re willing to travel wherever the need is if we have the means.
Speaking of “the means,” how can people support you? What’s the best way for people to follow what you’re doing and give you financial support?
Well, of course follow us on Instagram. We do have a Facebook, but we’re hoping to get it more lively, because at the moment most of our followers are on Instagram, but we are going to make a diligent effort to be more present on Facebook as well. Our website should be coming up very soon, so look out for that. For donations, you can CashApp ($HumblyAssistingHuman), PayPal or Zelle ([email protected] for both).
Are there some upcoming community events you’ll be at if people wanted to try to meet you or run into you?
We are so excited that we are partnering for a community barbecue, everything’s free, and we’ll be partnering with Free Food For All, on July 28th, Thursday, at 4pm. And also it was designed to be in an area with an underserved population. It’s in Wilmington, and it will be on the corner of Concord and Washington Street.
I’m excited to be able to tell people about that! Is there anything else that you want to share before we wrap up?
I have a cheesy quote I could send to you [laughs]. I like to say that everybody’s born with a gift, so find yours and use it to make the world a better place.
[Editor’s note: the full quote is in Shantel’s on the West Side Grows Together staff page: “Everyone is born with a divine gift and they should use that gift to help make the world a better place.”]
That’s so true. There’s a woman I follow who speaks on the Enneagram, which is like a self-learning system, and her quote is, or, the question she always asks is, “What is yours to do?” Like, there’s a lot to do. There are a lot of problems. There’s a lot that needs fixed. What is yours to do? Like, where should your effort go? And it’s just like, yeah.
I love that. I love that.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me.
Thank you for thinking of me. I feel honored.
Oh absolutely. The more attention I can bring to people like you and Jamilah who are doing this kind of work – it’s just vitally important. Food and community, they’re just, they’re the same. They’re connected – they need to be connected, I guess. They have been disconnected over the last several decades, and we have to reconnect them again, so this is extremely important work. This is how I can help.
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Upcoming Events Free BBQ, Thursday July 28th 4pm, corner of Concord and Washington St