By Carissa Lamkahouan

Little by little, in-person activities and events at the in Webster are coming back following the springtime pause the coronavirus forced on some of the nonprofit community center’s programming.

Now, with a balance of caution and safety, organizers at the center, 951 Tristar Drive, have again begun hosting weddings, youth nights and other events.

“We are determined to open our doors carefully for limited events with social distancing and mask wearing,” said Dr. Mohamed Shalaby, a Friendswood cardiologist who serves as president of the MCC’s board. He, along with four other area Muslim doctors and business people, founded the center last last year and worked to raise the approximately $2 million to construct the facility.

However, Shalaby said even though the center is the result of a Muslim initiative, the aim is to serve all members of the community who need help, regardless of faith, ethnic background or political affiliation. The MCC’s nine-member executive board includes a mix of men and women of all ages and backgrounds.

“There really wasn’t a place in southeast Houston that served a wide range of communities and people and cultures,” said Hamza Reed, the MCC’s director of operations. “So, we decided to create a facility that had programs that run every day. We want to serve the homeless, the immigrant community, people who are left in the dark in their community for one reason or another. We want to give a voice to the voiceless.”

Food, health services offered

Some of the MCC’s programming had been able to continue during the pandemic, either in-person, such as food collection and donations in partnership with the Houston Food Bank, or online.

“Our food delivery is a core objective,” Shalaby said. “When we opened, we quickly got the food program going and serving hundreds of families on a weekly basis.”

Like the food distribution, the center’s Mercy Clinic telehealth program has stayed operational throughout the pandemic, with around-the-clock services logging about 10-15 calls each week. Doctors and other health professionals answer health questions, offer medical advice, order labs and X-rays, connect people to area health and medical resources, offer prescriptions and meet other needs as best they can.

Each patient is referred to the healthcare provider based on an initial screening. The patient is then seen by the healthcare provider on a first-come. first-served basis at a subsidized cost, according to the center’s website. Patient unable to pay receive service free of charge.

“The clinic did not stop because of the virus,” Shalaby said. “As a matter of fact, we expanded it.”

The center offers free Wednesday night webinars that include a lecture and question-and-answer session. People also can access advice from mental health professionals as well as participate in online women’s conferences.

The MCC hosts limited-attendance, in-person youth nights with a lesson and games for youngsters; has Lego League for children ages 6-19; hosts Girl Scouts meetings and Arabic lessons, and partnered with the U.S. Census to get people counted and to help them register to vote.

Moving forward, Reed said he and other MCC staff must think outside of the box if they hope to expand other programming amid the coronavirus.

“We have initiatives planned for the future,” he said. “We don’t want to sit down and be stagnant. We’re living in a time when we have no choice but to keep up with the demands of our community.”

The MCC relies on volunteers such as Hanan Abdelgilil. The 19-year-old University of Houston dental student is a long-time volunteer at the Clear Lake Islamic Center and has been working at the MCC, as well.

“I bring in and organize volunteers,” she said. “It’s a passion of mine.”

To keep the MCC afloat, those in charge rely on donations and proceeds from events hosted in the Center’s Pearl Center ballroom. Normally, the space can easily accommodate up to 650 people. However, with COVID-19-related restrictions in place, the venue can only accept up to 300. With those challenges, Reed admitted it’s a bit difficult to sustain needed cash flow. Center supporters are raising funds to purchase a mobile trailer with a kitchen so they can travel to and serve the needy.

Shalaby said good progress is being made, particularly on the mobile kitchen.

“Right now we are looking into grants we can get because everyone is tapped out and you can’t get donations in the usual way,” Reed said.

“We also want to restart MCC Bloom, which is (a program) geared toward women’s holistic health.”

Other plans include starting a financial services center, job training and other resource allotments. Organizers envision a space where people can retrain for new jobs in hopes of becoming financially stable.

See Original Article at Chron