Wake County

Food drive honors legacy of Chapel Hill shooting victims

Mustafa Ismail, left, helps Teresa Perez unload food from her trunk Saturday at the Interfaith Food Drive in honor of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha at the Islamic Association of Raleigh. Perez drove from Carrboro to participate.
Mustafa Ismail, left, helps Teresa Perez unload food from her trunk Saturday at the Interfaith Food Drive in honor of Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha at the Islamic Association of Raleigh. Perez drove from Carrboro to participate. jhknight@newsobserver.com

Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha had big ideas for how they wanted to help the world.

So friends and family thought it was only appropriate to have just as ambitious aspirations when creating charitable efforts to honor the legacy of the three Muslim students shot to death in Chapel Hill.

On Saturday, almost a month after the violence that ended the lives of the community-minded high achievers, several of those efforts had exceeded their goals.

The Our Three Winners Trust Fund, set up to continue a Syrian Dental Relief mission launched by Barakat, a UNC-Chapel Hill dental student, topped the half-million-dollar mark.

The campaign, according to the YouCaring.com update, had surpassed its initial goal so many times that money in the trust would not only be used to help open new dental clinics in the Middle East and here in Raleigh. It also would be used to fund education and community service projects in the years to come.

An organizer of another project marveled at the outpouring of giving at a Triangle food drives.

Shadi Sadi said a canned food drive exceeded expectations. It started Saturday morning with a drop-off site at the Islamic Association of Raleigh and ended late in the afternoon with 15,497 cans – nearly 2,500 more than the goal – being dropped off at the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

The donations weighed 12,278 pounds.

Volunteers with Feed Their Legacy also collected $2,271 in cash and checks.

Food Bank workers told Sadi the drop-offs would provide 21,296 meals.

“We’re very humbled by the outpouring from the community,” Sadi said late in the afternoon.

The idea, Sadi said, was born in Tennessee by a man touched by the volunteerism and stories of Barakat, his wife, Yusor, and her sister, Razan. It quickly spread nationwide.

Barakat not only worked to bring dental care to people in need in his native Middle East, he also worked with the Abu-Salha sisters to get food to Triangle residents.

He volunteered in Durham, his friends said, and Razan Abu-Salha, a design student at N.C. State University, was a regular at Raleigh’s Moore Square, not only with sandwiches for the homeless but also special messages she tucked into the sustenance.

Nina Gabr, a friend and Raleigh resident, was at the drop-off site not far from the middle school the three attended, noting the bittersweet moment. She pointed to family of the three and the crowds of others there throughout Saturday eager to make a difference.

“It’s hard,” she said. “Had it been anyone else that this happened to, they would have been right here helping.”

Mussarat Jabeen, principal of Al-Iman School and the former elementary school teacher with whom Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha recorded a moving StoryCorps segment about growing up Muslim in America, agreed.

“It is bittersweet, but we are more inspired by their legacies,” Jabeen said.

The legacies of the three are a global message, the principal said.

“Take care of our neighbors,” Jabeen said. “That’s where we start.”

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, a former car parts salesman who was studying to be a paralegal at Durham Technical Community College, is accused of three first-degree murder counts in the Feb. 10 shootings.

Police have said the shootings seemed to be motivated by an ongoing parking dispute at the Finley Forest condominiums where Barakat and Hicks had been neighbors.

But within hours of the killings, the social media world was engaged in a global debate over whether the students had been targeted because of their religion. Federal investigators have opened an inquiry to determine whether to pursue federal hate crime charges.

But on Saturday, it was love, not hate, that permeated the charity event.

Blythe: 919-836-4948;

Twitter: @AnneBlythe1

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