Volunteers deliver meals to Ray of Hope Shelter in Auburn. Photo by Carmen Hom.

Every Saturday for the last two years, volunteers at the Degh Tegh Community Kitchen —  55% of whom are youth — would meet at 8 AM to prepare, wrap and deliver hot meals to food banks and shelters in Seattle, Auburn and Tacoma. 

This tradition changed mid-March due to COVID-19 when they decided to cancel services. Aman Ghag, president of the Board of Degh Tegh Community Kitchen, explained that cancelling the gathering and services was done to help contain the spread of the virus. 

Halting this service meant needing to find another way to give back. Last week, volunteers at Degh Tegh realigned their efforts to focus on making sure the folks at the frontlines of the pandemic were fed. This week, they hosted a lunch for the first responders at Swedish Hospital, and this coming Sunday plan to go to Evergreen Health Hospital in Kirkland to do the same. 

Following the principles of Seva 

Degh Tegh is an organization founded on Sikhism, a religion originating from the Punjab region of India. Degh Tegh follows the principles of Seva, meaning service.

“It is a duty that we have to take care of our neighbors,” Ghag said. “And that’s described as a Sikh mission to make sure that everyone is serving as needed. Whatever you think defines serving or protecting one another — that is a core principle of Sikhism.” 

Seva, as one of Sikhism’s core beliefs, is why Degh Tegh continues to give back even when their own community faces uncertainty. Langar Seva, the free communal Saturday meal offered to anyone across any identity, religion or ethnicity has been put on pause. Gurdwaras, places of worship for Sikhs, have been shut down for the duration of this pandemic. 

Jaspreet Singh, a previous volunteer at Degh Tegh explains the impact of closing Sikh religious services in the community. “[The Gurdawara] is usually a time for people to collect themselves and feel better but having to do this at home might not have the same effect. Some people have been going everyday for years and years.” 

“Usually at a time like this where everyone is really worried, the Gurdwara gets a lot of money because a lot of people go there,” Singh continued. “Any time there is a recession or business is down the first thing people do is go to the Gurdwara and pray. But now they can’t do that. And now the Gurdwara is suffering as well. The Gurdwara is going to have issues sustaining themselves because they’re not going to get income as well.”  

Partnership with A1 Seattle Taxi Services 

Poster shared on social media sites to advertise A1 Seattle Taxi’s grocery service.

Teaming up with other organizations to continue the momentum of giving back particularly in a time of need was a natural next step for Degh Tegh. They formalized their partnership with two organizations: United Sikhs, an international humanitarian nonprofit organization, and A1 Seattle Taxi, a local company. These three organizations together were able to provide meals to Ray of Hope Shelter in Auburn, WA as well as to the staff at Swedish Hospital. 

For people who do not have the means to go to the grocery store, or people who would like assistance with getting groceries, A1 Taxi Services is offering free rides and grocery pickup and deliveries to anyone in Kent, Renton or Auburn with a call to 206-466-9500. For now, the geographic boundary is limited to where drivers able to volunteer reside. The organizers of this effort recognized that this can be a lifeline to communities hit hardest by the health and economic repercussions of COVID-19, as they are currently facing the biggest threats of food insecurity. 

With almost a 70% reduction in air travel traffic from Seatac in tandem with the drastic hiatus in people’s commutes, the taxi drivers at A1, as well as drivers across the taxi industry, have faced an enormous slowdown in the business. Roni Singh, representative manager from A1 Taxis, understands the hardships the drivers face but knows that sheltering in place is the best option for both the drivers and the public. 

“Drivers ask me when they can come back to work, but I’m telling everyone to stay home and be safe. Until the next two months or month, we have to fix this first,” Singh said. 

These partnerships are one example of how local communities are currently banding together to extend generosity to all neighbors across the Puget Sound. If anyone is requesting meals, or any assistance of any sort, Ghag asks they email [email protected]. To help Degh Tegh continue their work, people can donate to Http://Donate.DeghTegh.com. 

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