Sikh temple participates in 'Food for Homeless' drive

On Saturday, at the Lawrence Gurudwara Sikh temple on Bakers Basin Road, nearly 100 volunteers turned out to put together 6,000 food packages assembly-line style as part of the British Columbia-based Sikhcess’ “Feed the Homeless Campaign.”

Those food packages were then brought to New York, where an additional 4,000 were made and distributed throughout the city and in New Jersey. Similar efforts have also been under way to benefit other areas, including Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Vancouver and Toronto.

Established in 2002 in Vancouver by Jatinder Singh, Sikhcess began as a community service program for young Sikhs to find a sense of place through youth camp initiatives. The program has expanded into the United States and in January began a campaign to feed the homeless, which has since prepared 20,000 food packages to feed people throughout the country. According to, that goal has been raised to 50,000, after the initial goal was reached in only nine months.

In addition to last weekend’s event, the Sikh community — which numbers about 100,000 in the United States and nearly 300,000 in Canada, with the majority of the 23 million Sikhs residing in India — has taken its concept of “langar” or free kitchen, to those on the streets. About 100 to 150 people primarily from Lawrence, Princeton, Hamilton and West Windsor attend services each week at the Lawrence temple, which opened in 2005.

Tenets such as service to community in the Sikh faith, which was established by Guru Nanak Dev in early 16th century India, are something 19-year-old Sonia Guleria, of Baker Way in Hopewell wants more people to be aware of. Ms. Guleria, currently a sophomore electrical engineering major at Villanova University, is the coordinator of the food drive assembly at the Lawrence temple.

”A lot of times Sikhs are associated in the press as terrorists because they wear turbans,” the former West Windsor resident said, noting personal experiences with friends and family members. “It’s always a very, very big issue in our community.”

She added, “I think this is a great way to shed light on Sikh people and make others more aware of how it is.”

Beyond greater public awareness of the Sikh culture, there is the simple need for those who can assist to do so for those who cannot, noted Amit Singh, the Sikhcess executive director.

”It’s all about doing something positive to help people around me, whether it’s my local community or all across America,” said Mr. Singh, 27, based in Chicago. “Sikhism encourages community service. It encourages people to do things for their local communities and people in general.”

”Sikhism is very much into public service,” said Sikhcess Executive Media Coordinator Jasmin Guleria, a 25-year-old Sikh living in New York City. “You have to give to people in need. This is primarily based on teaching youth about public service.”

Despite the program and organization having been started by those of the Sikh religion, Mr. Singh said anyone is welcome to participate, no matter what age, race or faith. “We have a sitting executive in Miami, a Lebanese, who is feeding between 500 and 1,000 homeless people. This is not limited, it’s more broad based than that.”

Jasmin, Sonia Guleria’s cousin, agreed, noting the program’s ability to help people regardless of who they are or what they believe. “We’re feeding people of all different races and religions,” she said. “It’s just a very humbling experience.”

With the growing success of Sikhcess, talks are under way to extend the food drives from an annual event to quarterly and possibly bring it to other places around the world, Sonia Guleria said.

”I definitely want to stay involved,” she said. “It’s been so much fun getting people together and planning.”

As volunteer Amarpreet Chadha, a resident of the Franklin Arms apartment complex in Lawrence, said, “This is what we do. We are proud because we are helping other people. Wherever the need is, we are always ready to help.”


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