Fresno State Sikh Student Association lends hand in time of crisis

“We went around to Punjabi-owned businesses, mostly trucking companies, and we collected around an extra $28,000,” Mande...

As the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered colleges in early March, student organizations like the Sikh Student Association (SSA) at Fresno State had to move their meetings to a virtual format. 

When the new board members were elected, they saw an opportunity to give back to their community in a time of need...

...Over several Zoom meetings, several board members, including President Sandeep Sandhu, Treasurer Sarabjot Mander and Sangat committee member Amandeep Narwal, came up with the idea of hosting a food drive for families in need. 

“We thought we could help as many people as we can in difficult times because a lot of [our members] come from middle class families,” Mander said...

...In mid-May, Fresno State SSA created a GoFundMe page to purchase food and supplies, raising around $3,180. Still, the page didn’t gain as much traction as they hoped.

Mander said the goal was to raise around $20,000, so they contacted several local punjabi-owned businesses. 

“We went around to Punjabi-owned businesses, mostly trucking companies, and we collected around an extra $28,000,” Mander said. “In total, I think we had around 45 different business donors.”

Several of these business donors included Kerman Car Wash, NB Trucking and Premier Pizza. Although they exceeded their goal, Mander said he’s extremely grateful, but the process was not effortless.

Sandhu, Omreep Mander and Sarabjot Mander went to talk to businesses in Fresno County, but many of them said to come at different times when they weren’t busy. Sandhu said there were several days where they worked from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

“We [drove] almost 300 to 400 miles in a day just going back and forth because some businesses [said] ‘come back at this time,’ and another one would say ‘come back at this time,’” Sarabjot Mander said. “We’ll be in Selma, and then after that we have to go to Fresno to meet someone and then we’ll have to come back to Caruthers.”

Once they received the donations, the next part was thinking about what foods and supplies to buy. Sandeep Johal, a Sangat committee member, said they focused on purchasing foods with a long shelf life, so they could store them for one to two weeks before they were placed in boxes.

“We [purchased] mainly canned food, flour, pasta and granola bars because those are things that are necessities that people can use on a daily basis, but we could also keep them for a week,” Johal said. 

The main target group of the drive was groups of four to five-member families, Sandhu said. Based on that, the club members chose ingredients that families could use for cooking supplies such as macaroni, rice and flour.

In total, the club handed out 1,059 boxes to families in Fresno County. Each box contained around $30 of dry goods that could last up to a week.

pamphlet was also stashed inside each box as well, which talks about the message of Sikhism as well as some quick facts. 

“A lot of people don’t know about our religion, and a lot of people don’t know what the basis and the values are of being Sikh,” Sandhu said. “..This way people get a better understanding of our religion.”...

...The basic message of Sikhism is the opposite of terrorism — one creator and one human race, all equal each with the creator’s light within. 

“Our religion believes in giving back to families and people, and we’ll continue to do that moving forward,” Sandhu said.

Add a Comment