SAN ANTONIO — The Sikh community here in San Antonio is offering free vegetarian meals this weekend for all government employees during the shutdown at the Sikh Center of San Antonio.
It’s been more than three weeks since the start of the partial government shut down. As a result, many federal workers who have been furloughed or are working without pay feel it has gone on long enough.
"We are here to support those federal employees who are not getting their paycheck, and we really appreciate their services... and we believe our nation should appreciate and give gratitude to those men and women who are doing wonderful service for us, but are not getting paid so," said Balwinder "Dillon" Dhillon, President of the Sikh Center of San Antonio. "The least we could do is support them with a hot meal for the next three days."
Per Sikh customs, they are strictly serving vegetarian meals.
"It's freshly cooked vegetables, lentils and rice, and tortillas," Dhillon said.
He also mentioned that all the food is made fresh by volunteers from the community.
"They come early in the morning, four o'clock, sometimes 5 o'clock to start preparing."
Dhillon says providing meals was a collective idea of the community.
And while no one in their community is directly affected by the shutdown, he said, "We don't worry about one community. We all belong to one race, which is the human race. We think we are all brothers and sisters and we need to support each other no matter who we are. We may have different color, different class or religion, or social and economic status, but at the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters."
Though the turnout this Friday was not as much as they would have liked, Dhillon remains hopeful.
"As people know, they'll come, but we are prepared for as many would come. We are ready."
When asked if they would continue feeding federal employees, in the event the shutdown continues, Dhillon replied, "We would love to do it. We hope [the shutdown] ends tomorrow. [But,] even if it ends tomorrow, we will still hold it for the next three days."
As part of the Sikh religion, one of their duties is to look out and protect the downtrodden.
"That is our faith," said Dhillon.
One volunteer explained the reason why Sikhs wear turbans and maintain beards is as a symbol of identity. He described it as a "symbol of identity, equality, a human crown to lend a helping hand for the fallen."
For more information on the Sikh community, visit their website.