Editor’s note: This is one in a periodic series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times. Have a story we should tell? Send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Stepping Up.”
Before the novel coronavirus existed, the Degh Tegh Community Kitchen in Auburn was already helping people.
Run by the local Sikh community, the meaning of the words Degh Tegh was also its mission: to serve food to and protect the rights of everyone in the community.
Since opening a couple of years ago, the nonprofit Degh Tegh Community Kitchen has served 500 meals every Saturday to local homeless shelters. With the spread of the virus, the Seattle-area Sikh community came together to do much more.
The Degh Tegh Community Kitchen has aligned with the United Sikhs organization and A1 Seattle Taxi to provide meals to hospital workers, send pizzas three days a week to the Ray of Hope Shelter in Auburn, drop off bags of food to people in need and provide free taxi and delivery service for the elderly and those vulnerable and without means.
“A core value of (the Sikhs) is to help each other and our neighbors and our brothers and sisters,” said Aman Ghag, a board member at the Degh Tegh Community Kitchen. “And a core principle of Sikhs is to help others who are less fortunate. Unfortunately, there are these opportunities to do stuff, but fortunately, we are here to fill some sort of hole, even if it’s just one person. Fundamentally, it’s why our organization is here and it’s why we are going to continue to help our neighbors.”
Tanvir Singh, director of the local branch of the United Sikhs, said, “We are a united community and we are always there to help our neighbors in need.”
When the Degh Tegh Community Kitchen was forced to pause its Saturday meal service because of social-distancing requirements and the stay-home order, the local Sikh community began looking for other ways to make a difference.
That has included feeding hospital workers from Everett to Tacoma, “just to give appreciation to the first responders who are out there every day,” Ghag said.
“They’re out there working 18 to 20 hours a day, so they need some hot meals,” Ghag added. “We wanted to show them appreciation, but also provide food.”
And a lot is provided. Ghag said they typically serve at least 150 but they recently delivered 500 meals to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.
Ghag said the alliance of Sikh groups also started weekly food drives to help various food banks.
“We are trying to get the word out as much as possible, 12 to 3 every Sunday,” Ghag said.
This Sunday’s drive will be at the Everett Albertsons parking lot (520 128th St. S.W.), and locations are announced each week on the Degh Tegh Community Kitchen’s Facebook page.
Ghag said that while “food banks are great, a lot of people can’t make it to the food banks.” To reach those people, who are often elderly, a hotline was created so people can call and have the food delivered. Such a service was made possible because of the alliance between various local Sikh organizations.
“We all got together so we could have a broader impact,” Ghag said. “There are some services that (the Degh Tegh Community Kitchen) couldn’t provide, like taxi service. All of these services are joint between the three organizations.”
This week, the organizations came together to do something new, making 10- to 15-pound bags of groceries for people in need. On Tuesday, 100 were handed out at a Kent senior apartment facility and 150 were expected to go to a similar facility in Auburn on Wednesday.
As far as free taxi and delivery service for the elderly and those in need, there is no limit, Singh said.
“Whoever calls us,” Singh said, “We are there to help, 24/7.”
“It’s good to see that when the need is there, we can step it up,” Ghag said.
For free taxi service for the elderly and those in need, call 206-466-9500. For other needs, the number is 253-245-3260.