By J.D. O’Gara
Seva: The word means “selfless service” and for the spiritual Sikh community, it is an integral part of daily life – a practice of acting selflessly and helping others without any expectation of personal gain.
One act of seva is langar, the act of preparing and serving a free community meal, and in that spirit, Sikh Dharma of Massachusetts recently opened a new pick-up food pantry, operating every Saturday from noon to 2:00 p.m. in the drive-through parking lot of Woodside Montessori School at 350 Village Street in Millis.
Anyone from Massachusetts is welcome to the service.
“We’d been thinking about doing this for a long time, and in the spring, when Covid came, we decided to start. We hope to serve the larger community, and we’re hoping to expand this, to go out into the community to feed people,” said Dr. Manjit Kaur Khalsa, EdD, President of Guru Ram Das Ashram and Gurdwara, the New England regional center for Sikh Dharma and Kundalini Yoga, in Millis.
Members of this community, about 22 of whom live at the Ashram and 1,000 who come weekly (although the center is currently closed due to the pandemic), raised money to upgrade the Ashram’s kitchen to a commercial grade space. They plan to use “Guru Nanak’s Community Kitchen,” named for the 15th century founder of the Sikh religion, to prepare meals for neighbors in need. The food pantry is a part of that.
“It’s really needed right now, considering the state of everything going on,” said Edwin Meglio, food pantry coordinator. Meglio, who has come to the center for years for yoga and meditation, has used his experience in the national food industry to get the pantry up and running.
The group learned the rules and regulations of distributing food to people, and has received generous donations of non-perishable foods and toiletries from Trader Joes, among others.
Since the Ashram is a vegetarian community, the foods distributed are vegetarian and as natural as possible, with most in bpa-free packaging. “We offer non-perishable foods that are cleaned and bagged up, stapled and sealed, along with personal hygiene items that are separate from the food,” says Meglio, adding, “We’re not looking to influence anyone religiously or spiritually, and there’s no obligation to come to a service or anything like that.”